Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Study about how men benefit from marriage misses the mark

A study conducted by the Pew Research Center was discussed on USA Today to show how men are beginning to benefit from marriage because women make more money than they used to. This article mentioned factors such as women's wages rising 44% over a time frame when men's rose only 6%, and women's higher rate of education as factors for why men benefit from marriage now (as though they didn't before). This research was cited on a local radio station today.

This article fails to mention that women still only make 71 cents on a man's dollar in Canada, much better than 50 years ago, but down from 72 cents in the mid-1990s.

Another slight oversight is the many ways in which men have benefited (currently and historically) from the unpaid work that women do in the home. According to many studies, women still do two thirds of the work in the home, even when both she and her husband work outside the home. Historically, men were only able to work because women took care of the children and the housework, thereby producing and reproducing workers.

The article's first line is "If you think women still reap more economic benefit than men do from marriage, you may be living in the past." This assumes that I think women benefit more from marriage than men, which I do not- and remarriage rates support this theory. It would be difficult to question women's dependence on men for economic survival, especially at times when women were not expected to work outside the home, but I think the amount that men have gained from having an unpaid worker in the house needs to be stated. This research also doesn't explain why single mothers and widowed women are by far the poorest groups in the country. If marriage were as important economically to men as it is to women, would they not have equal rates of poverty when not married?

The question shouldn't be "who has the most education" or "who makes the most money" or even "who spends the most" all of which are mentioned in the article. Here are some suggested questions that I believe could better be used to study equality within marriage:

Why is it that even with higher rates of post-secondary education, women make less money than men? And I don't mean falling back on human capital theory or biological determinist arguments.

How is it that we continue to allow unpaid childrearing and domestic labour to remain invisible? And what impact does this have on women's wages?

Are these figures specific to certain groups? For example, do these trends hold across various ethnic groups and social classes within the population? And how do non-heterosexual couples factor in to this type of study?

Are arguments such as these being used to tell women to sit down and shut up because we've never had it so good?

And why have I never heard it argued that historically (or in other countries) men have it much worse than men in contemporary western society, so they should be grateful for what they have?


  1. To answer your own equality questions:
    A) Because the uneducated women are far less willing and/or able to take on the messy/dirty/but relatively high paying jobs available to the uneducated as are men. Yeah, you heard me. Uneducated chicks are often LAZY.

    B) What do you mean unpaid? Roof over head, food in belly? The only time a domestic housewife should be crying wolf is when the man perpetuates the stereotype by coming home and taking on a "Wife barefoot in the kitchen, and I MAKE ALL THE MONEY" attitude. I think more often than not, men are aware of the 'job' that the wife does at home, and both parties share equally in everything that the man's paid wage provides. The same goes vice versa for house-husbands.

    C) Ummm yeah I really have nothing to say here lest I come across as a racist and a biggot.

    D) No, arguments like these and studies like the one quoted by that radio station still happen because idiots in government provide grants to people/companies that perform these ultimately useless 'studies', which can be done by any 2nd year university students with access to the right statistics. God forbid the government turn down grant money to a proposed study using words like "Equity, Economy, & Gender".

    E) Because that's just a given. Also, imagine if EVERYONE in a first world country and spent the time to dwell on the fact that their own poor little life is still 100x better than someone in say, Gee, I don't know, Haiti? We'd all be depressed and unproductive if people began thinking about a little thing called REALITY.

  2. You missed the boat entirely. Women get their moneys from divorce (legitimately or otherwise.) It plays a huge factor in the negative attitude of the current family law system. It tends to favor women, and typically leaves a man in shambles (again, this may or may not be legit.)

    Women need to move away from a system of blaming men and society, and focus on proving their net worth. Fair example: The asian-canadian community. We jailed them during WW2, even those who'd been patriotic canadians from birth. Have they continuously cried "wolf" since? No, they built a very successful can-do work attitude that is generally recognized.

    Another flaw is the cost of domesticated help and servicing. Let's face it, most folks already think daycare is stratospherically expensive - and it is - not that I'm suggesting absolving the parents of responsibility via "big brother". It's hypocritical of a household woman to expect to pay very little for daycare, yet expect a juicy check as a homecare provider, doing essentially the exact same thing.

    It boils down to one thing: money. The amount of wealth in the world is fixed. Anytime a particular group expects to receive a "pay out" for the differences due to the inequality they perceive, another group will lose an equal amount of money (plus of course, the middleman lining his pockets). Thus resulting in general resentment for the first group (which may be well-founded, in particular circumstances.)

  3. Joel, for the first 3 paragraphs I couldn't tell if you were joking or being sarcastic or something. You say that divorce benefits women and leaves men in shambles? Really? The poverty rates for single mothers is the highest of any group. Another study showed that after divorce, women experienced a 73% decline in their standard of living, while their former husbands experienced a 42% rise (Weitzman). I don't know how this study was conducted, but I hardly think that women benefit economically more than men from divorce.

    I don't think that it is hypocritical of women to expect a decent pay check and affordable daycare. Men have benefited from free childcare for years in the form of wives who were discouraged from working. And by that same argument, we could say that it is wrong for doctor's to expect a big paycheck and free health care... it just doesn't make sense to me. There are a lot of countries with national daycare systems (even the province of Quebec).

    And your past paragraph, that is called privilege. Those is dominant groups who have nothing to lose will protect their own interests, but if we all thought that way, if the dominant group protected our own interests at all costs, slavery would still be the norm. We need to learn to recognize our privilege, and to be angry that groups of people are still treated differently by virtue of their race/ethnicity/gender/sexuality/ability/age/etc.