May 18, 2004
Women who go out to work – the good news and the bad news

Instapundit linked to Assymetric Information about this, and that's how I found this, about the contribution made by women in recent decades to increased GDP. This contribution, says Jane Galt, has been made possible by the massively reduced time now needed to run a home, cook meals, clean up, do laundry:

My mother stayed home with us. By the time I was ten, she was going bonkers. There simply wasn't enough to do in the house . . . and my mother, mind you, had gone in for gourmet cooking in a rather large way, producing elaborate dinners that took hours to prepare. She was the mainstay of the PTA, the building's co-op board, and so forth. Nonetheless, there simply wasn't enough to keep an active woman occupied after the children were in school.

Women in the house, other than those with small children, became economically useless to their families once labour-saving devices and modern food processing made 90% of their labour obsolete. So they went to work.

Thus, I'd argue that the GDP growth we experienced when women went to work is measuring the same thing as other kinds of GDP growth: the movement of labour resources from less valued to more valued uses.

However:

This has created a problem, of course: women's work used to be compatible with child care, and now it is not. And the business world is still largely designed for men: it is not structured to accommodate professional women who stay home with young children. On that, more later.

And this posting should remind me to got back for the"more later" that she promises.

Commenter lindenen echoes that last point:

All those kids who decide to shoot up their classmates, would they have sunk to this level if someone had been parenting the kids? I think there are a lot of indirect negative effects that we are only just beginning to deal with.

Agreed.

If you think about it, raising children is all about – and I know it's uncool to quote yourself but uncoolness be damned - this (see my immediately previous posting):

In the longer term, I believe that the "answer" to children abusing drugs is to rearrange the immediate incentive structure that the average school-child now faces. If more children made a more immediate contribution to the world, and got immediate rewards for doing so, and more immediate punishments for not making such a contribution, then drug abuse, which would not be rewarded and would be punished, might diminish, although it would never completely go away.

When Old Fashioned Mum did her housework, her kids either helped (even if it was only by not being a nuisance) and were praised, or were a nuisance and got scolded. They got attention, nice or nasty according to whether they were contributing or not contributing. But when New Mum goes to work, all that stuff gets switched off. New Mum therefore, in a very basic sense, separates children from the realities of the world, personified by … herself.

And people who live in an unreal world, stripped of all economic rationality, do drugs. Drugs make unreality a whole hell of a lot more exciting, and don't result in any income being foregone. There may later be disapproval, but it is not immediate. The drugged gratification is immediate. lindenen is right. Kids whom Mum neglects are liable to shoot up.

And far too many schools are like neglectful Mums. At least those sniffer dogs (again: see previous posting) mean that someone is paying attention.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:47 PM
Category: Parents and children