Careers and Families of High-Skilled Women in the Age of High Inequality

Yves here. While identifying an important and heretofore not well-recognized development, this article argues that raising the minimum wage would be bad for high income women because they’d have fewer children. Given that members of advanced economies, most of all the well off, consume disproportionately more in the way of resources, this would seem to be a win-win. But of course that is not the way the authors see it.

By Michael Bar, Moshe Hazan, Oksana Leukhina, David Weiss, and Hosny Zoabi. Originally published at VoxEU

Over recent decades, the trend for high-skilled, career-focused women to have fewer children, if any at all, has reversed. Using US data, this column shows that rising wage inequality is behind the reversal. Greater income inequality enables high-income families to outsource household production to lower-income people. Changes to minimum wage laws are thus likely to affect the fertility and career decisions of the rich.

I have frequently been questioned, especially by women, of how I could reconcile family life with a scientific career. Well, it has not been easy.
Marie Curie, 1867-1934

What do career women ‘leaning in’ at work, wage inequality, and the minimum wage all have in common? It turns out that they are all crucial for understanding how many children women have, or indeed if they have any at all. Consider a woman ‘leaning in,’ or devoting all of her energy to her career.1 Historically, these women have had fewer children than others, often abstaining entirely from motherhood as they simply didn’t have the time for both families and careers (Jones et al. 2008, Baudin et al. 2015).2 Widely accepted economic explanations emphasise that raising a large family requires a lot of time, and time is very expensive for high earners (Becker 1960, Galor and Weil 1996).

Over the past 40 years, however, high-income women have dramatically increased their family size and reduced their childlessness rates to become on par with the most fertile population groups (Figures 1, 2). What changed? We argue that rising wage inequality played an important role. As wage inequality increases, high-income households can better afford to have low-income people take care of their children and homes, yielding more time for both careers and families. The rise in fertility of high-skilled females was first documented in Hazan and Zoabi (2015), discussed on Vox here. In a recent paper, we argue that rising inequality, through outsourcing of home chores, can quantitatively explain the observed trends in fertility (Bar et al. (2017). We also study implications for the overall educational investment in children. While we briefly discuss these issues here, we focus attention in this column on one policy implication – increasing the minimum wage substantially decreases fertility and labour supply of high income women.

Figure 1 Fertility rates by family income decile, 1980 and 2010


Figure 2 Childlessness rates by education group, 1990-2014


We begin with an overview of inequality’s impact on fertility and education investment in children. Rising wage inequality makes it cheaper for high earners to outsource childcare and household chores, thereby allowing them to increase fertility without sacrificing their career opportunities. This is because outsourcing is directed towards workers that are concentrated in the lower end of the wage distribution, as we explain below.

In our paper, we confirm this hypothesis using a structural model of fertility rates and inequality. Our model simulations indicate that changes in wage inequality observed between 1980 and 2010 can indeed account for the fertility trends over time, namely for the dramatic increase in fertility of high income families. Moreover, this hypothesis is consistent with the increased tendency of the rich to outsource time-intensive household chores.

Now consider the fact that high-income families tend to provide more education for their children, as they have more resources available. Indeed, a child born to a mother from the 9th or 10th decile of the income distribution is three times more likely to graduate from college than one born in the 1st or 2nd decile. If relatively more children are born to high-income families as a result of increased inequality, then the overall college attainment will also rise. Indeed, our model simulations suggest a 7.5% increase in the overall college attainment. Our findings regarding the implications of rising inequality on fertility and educational investments are driven entirely by the presence of opportunity to outsource time-intensive household tasks – the process we refer to as marketisation of home production.3

The stark implication of the theory described thus far is that any factor that affects the cost of outsourcing home production should impact the families and careers of the rich. Our focus is on the minimum wage. The typical discussion of minimum wage policy focuses on its effectiveness to deliver its intended effect – to raise income of low skilled workers while preserving their employment opportunities (Manning 2016). We point out the presence of an unintended effect on high-income families. If a higher minimum wage makes marketisation more expensive for high-skilled females, it makes it harder for them to afford both a family and a career. While indirect, this effect can be significant.

Figure 3 shows the distribution of wages relative to the minimum wage, both for the industries of the economy associated with home production substitutes (HPS) and other sectors of the economy. The figure reveals that wages of workers in HPS sectors are indeed concentrated around the minimum wage. This means they are very likely to respond to changes in minimum wage laws and thereby change the cost of marketisation.

Figure 3 The distribution of the real wage, relative to the minimum wage, by sector of the economy


Bernie Sanders, during the 2016 presidential election, suggested raising the Federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 per hour. To explore how this minimum wage increase would affect high income families, we first need to quantify its implied effect on the cost of HPS4 – this captures the relevant change for high income families whose own wages will not respond to minimum wage laws. The impact of this change on their fertility and market work effort can then be calculated using our quantitative model of family decision making.

For our first task, we measure the effect of changes in minimum wage laws across states between 1980 and 2010 on wages of workers employed in HPS sectors. There is, however, a well-known problem with this approach – states tend to raise their minimum wage when economic conditions are good and wages are already rising. Thus, the correlation between the minimum wage and wages of HPS sectors’ workers partly reflects changes in the general economic conditions, rather than the causal effect of policy. To isolate the causal effect of minimum wage laws on HPS wages, we use an instrumental variable approach proposed in Baskaya and Rubinstein (2012). We find that Bernie Sander’s policy proposal to raise the Federal minimum wage to $15 would increase the cost of marketisation by about 20%. How does this increase affect careers and families?

According to our theory, higher costs of home production substitutes should decrease fertility and labour supply of high-income women, as outsourcing of childcare and household chores becomes more expensive. We use our quantitative model – which successfully explains the observed time trends in fertility – to estimate the effect of the 20% rise in the cost of marketisation on high-income families. Our simulations suggest a sizable impact. We find that a mother from a 10th (5th) decile household increases time at home by 30% (14%), at the expense of market labour effort. This is specifically for women who have already had children and cannot adjust their fertility choices to changing economic conditions. However, as children become more expensive to raise, fertility rates drop for households that can adjust their family size. Indeed, we find that a 10th (5th) decile household decreases fertility by 13.5% (9.1%). In turn, these mothers spend only 13% (3.9%) more time at home. These, presumably unintended, consequences of minimum wage policy for careers and families of high skilled women are large.

In order to verify this prediction of our model, we also estimate the effect of the minimum wage on the labour supply of high-skilled women directly from the data. We use the 1980-2010 Current Population Survey data on white non-Hispanic married women of age between 25 and 54, and whose real hourly wage is in the 9th and 10th decile. Again, we must resort to the instrumental variables approach to tease out the causal effect. We find that the elasticity of labour supply of high income women with respect to the minimum wage is around -0.4. That is, a 10% increase in the minimum wage yields a 4% decrease in high income women’s labour supply. Our model, on the other hand, predicts an elasticity of about -0.3, which is quite close. Interestingly, when testing the impact of the minimum wage on the father’s labour supply, we find no effect. So, while gender roles have indeed been changing, we do not find evidence that they have been fully equalised.

It is important for us to emphasise that our goal is not to argue that rising inequality is necessarily beneficial for educational attainment of future generations, neither is it to argue that increasing the minimum wage hurts high income families. Rather, we wish to emphasise that these ideas represent quantitatively significant tradeoffs that must be taken into account by policymakers.

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  1. The Rev Kev

    Wait, wait, wait – lemme get this straight. This paper is saying that so that a tiny fraction of the population – ‘high-skilled, career-focused women’ – can have more kids, that it is necessary to keep the bulk majority of their sisters with poverty-level wages? That so that these women can concentrate on their high-powered lives, that they want other women to give up having their own kids because they do not have the resources to raise them to their standards? That with their wealth that they do not want to cough up the dough for fair wages?
    I could suggest that perhaps that these high-powered women should make a sacrifice or two to have their extra children but I do not think that this comment would be kindly received by them. The conclusion of this paper makes it plain that they want policymakers to make their wants federal law. I might have had more confidence in this Israeli-US paper if I had not noticed that four of the five authors were men with the only junior woman present. If you want to know why women do not have equal rights I would present you with this paper and the thinking behind it as proof why. And why modern feminism is a total failure. That its divides women into the haves and have-nots and pits them against each other.

    1. tegnost

      “I could suggest that perhaps that these high-powered women should make a sacrifice or two to have their extra children”
      Don’t be so selfish kev, these high value women are having higher value children as the study magnanimously claims, fta…
      “Now consider the fact that high-income families tend to provide more education for their children, as they have more resources available. Indeed, a child born to a mother from the 9th or 10th decile of the income distribution is three times more likely to graduate from college than one born in the 1st or 2nd decile. If relatively more children are born to high-income families as a result of increased inequality, then the overall college attainment will also rise. Indeed, our model simulations suggest a 7.5% increase in the overall college attainment”
      But really the gem of the article is this one, IMO,
      ” time is very expensive for high earners”
      which truly should read
      “time appears very expensive from the perspective of a high earner”

    2. JTMcPhee

      And these high-powered women, lots of names come to mind, just what does this set of special snowflakes and their supposedly special kids (best nannies, best schools, best gadgets and style, etc. and from my experience the best perversions and least empathy and sense of comity) provide to anyone other than themselves and their cohort in the way of social goods? Not talking of doctors and dentists now, but FIRE and pharmacy and marketing and such.

      Maslow’s hierarchy is represented as a pyramid, only the tiny few can aspire to self-actualization. Which others have pointed out is best observed in those who emulate John Galt. And in practice, it takes the looting and bleeding-out of a whole lot of mopes to underwrite the apotheosis of the oligarchy, which so many high-powered women, emulating the men who blazed the path of neoliberalism on the foundations of colonialism and empire, strive so ardently to be part of and to lead others down.

      Present company excepted, of course.

      1. Haste Ti

        Ah, name-calling is always productive. I can’t tell if your question is rhetorical or not, but I find it fascinating that you are ascribing an insanely flawed theory to a wide swath of women whose apparent crime is attaining power in the workplace. Women don’t owe you an explanation of our value to the workplace. I have attained some power in my workplace–still a laughable amount compared to my white male colleagues. I have two sisters, neither of whom are high-earners, and their husbands are not high-earners either (and still carry student debt). My income supports not only me and my family, but goes towards saving money to put my nieces and nephews through college and to support my parents as they age. Despite the insane vilification of high-income professional women in your comments and others like it, every single working mom I know is either paying several thousand dollars a month for day care or paying well-above minimum wage for our nannies, and lord knows, their help and labor is worth every penny. And none of us have made the decision to have children (or the number of children) based on the wage rate of our child care providers for exactly this reason: we can afford to pay them well BECAUSE we earn high incomes.

        Anecdotal or not, at least my evidence is based on reality and not plucked out of thin air, as is this smear campaign apparently designed to pit high-income women against low-income women, and/or force women to justify why we want to stay in the workplace.

  2. vegasmike

    We’re back into the 19th Century. Class status in the 21st century will be much more determined by inherited wealth. We baby boomers were lucky; we lived in a society where real social mobility existed. I live in Vegas, which is a weirdly democratic place. But I still have connections in both New York and Boston. Housing is expensive and people want their kids to be educated in private universities. If you parents and/or grandparents aren’t rich, you probably won’t be able to live a high-end life style.

  3. Jesper

    The ending paragraph is full of weasel speak:

    It is important for us to emphasise that our goal is not to argue that rising inequality is necessarily beneficial for educational attainment of future generations, neither is it to argue that increasing the minimum wage hurts high income families. Rather, we wish to emphasise that these ideas represent quantitatively significant tradeoffs that must be taken into account by policymakers.

    Our goal is not…. Seems like they believe that high-income people have superior genetics and as such are the only ones capable of ‘educational attainment’. The argument seems to be that the superior beings should be encouraged to breed and the lessers….

    But from people who are worshipping the GDP (if something it is good for GDP then it is per definition good) then such arguments makes sense.

  4. dan

    These high-income households need to hold off procreating until robot-nannies are common
    place. We can be reasonably assured that these robo-nannies can raise their offspring
    cost-effectively and with likely more empathy than they themselves have….

  5. funemployed

    I find it thoroughly confuzzeling how few of these elitist lean-in “feminist” types would never, ever consider marrying someone whose primary ambitions in life were to be a great dad (or mom), cook, host, interior decorator, gardener, domestic companion, amateur novelist or poet, or any of the great many lovely things one might aspire to that don’t lead usually to wealth and social status among the wealthy.

    Methinks it also says something about their values that one of the primary tasks so outsourced happens to be raising these much-valued children – a service clearly unworthy of $15 an hour in their view.

    Much as I struggle to empathize with rich adults, I find it genuinely sad that the most privileged children in our society often can’t count a childhood spent in the company of at least one loving and attentive parent among their privileges.

      1. johnnygl

        It seems like they are hiring house-cleaners more than nannies. But my understanding is that nannies have gotten more popular, too.

        Daycare costs are brutal, but a lot of them have really nice facilities, too. For some, the cost of a nanny is close enough to justify, and they like individualized attention for the kid(s), plus they get housecleaning thrown in.

        I find the whole thing frustrating as a parent, and often morally revolting, but there’s a logic to it.

        It does help explain HRC’s reluctance to embrace something as popular as min wage hikes. Her base hates it!

  6. Wukchumni

    When the who shebang falls apart, jobs will be few and far between, and might there be a heretofore unheard of war on account of said positions, between mano y womano?

  7. George Phillies

    One might also propose that woman in upper deciles are approaching earning as much as men, so there is more money available for alternatives. The fertility rate graph has another interesting feature, namely women in the bottom decile are having more children in 2010 than in 1980.

    1. David Carl Grimes

      Perhaps the bottom deciles have reverted to Third World status and mentality. Women in third world countries have more children because children are seen as resource and not as an expense. After a certain age (like 6 or more), the kids can work by begging, selling stuff on the street, do a lot of mundane tasks. Plus, the children can take care of their parents in old age.

  8. Beans

    Hmmm… a working mom thay fits the high income(ish) earner – I am a dental specialist- this study doesn’t jibe with my and my colleagues experience. The cost of household support has next to zero to do with our decision to become parents. If minimum wage was raised, we would still choose to have families – even though, in the words of Marie Curie, it is not easy.
    Here are the reasons why –
    1. There is a generation of childless women who paved the way for our entry into the profession. They are now entering retirement, often without extended family support. Many of us admire these women and are grateful for their effort to open the door for more women to follow. We do not HAVE to sacrifice a family as they did, because it is now easier for us and there are more of us, which has changed the way my profession operates.
    2. Finding hired support is hard and often unreliable, unless I pay a living wage. Paying minimum wage would likely result in high turnover. In my area, $15-25 an hour is typical for help. When a valued nanny is no longer needed because a child starts school, there is a concerted effort by the employer to help the nanny find their next job. Think neighborhood Facebook pages, nextdoor and just plain social networking.
    3. The time consuming part of parenting is only part of my career life. I have come to look at these years as a semi-retirement era. I will gladly pay for help and put opportunites to increase net income on hold for now so that when the kids are more independent, I have a viable, ongoing career to redirect my energy towards.
    That is at least the general mindset of female dentists who are also moms. The study is conflating the cost of help with the fact that we are several decades away from the sexual revolution and women now reap the benefits of those changes.

    1. hreik

      Could not agree w you more. I’m an M.D. Had 2 kids (now grown). Income had zero to do w any of my decisions. These jokers assume is always about moolah. In many cases it has nothing to do w money.

    2. FluffytheObeseCat

      Now, now! Why are you presenting us with a detailed, current example of healthy professional class family life? Are you trying to counter this poorly thought out piece of social propaganda by baffling us with reality?!!

    3. Altandmain

      The issue I have with this is that your experiences may be atypical.

      This paper is looking at large scale effects across an entire population. Take a hard look at the graph – being a nanny is not a very well paying career, and the largest group of people earn minimum wage.

      You and the other commenter, hreik, are purely presenting anecdotal evidence. While I’m sure that you are being truthful. Is it at all possible that you two, are outliers? Keep in mind that dental and MDs (specialists anyways) are well paid, even for the professional class. Let’s say for the sake of argument that you pay 4x the minimum wage in your area. Look at how many people are making 4x the minimum wage in this industry versus the other industries.

      I’m saying that there’s a correlation between high income inequality, the rise of nannies, and the ability for high income earners to reproduce. While a case could be made that correlation does not definitively prove causation, it is not something that you can refute with anecdotal evidence.

      To give another example, I once noted to someone that the US and the UK have the worst social mobility of the developed world.

      My nation, Canada does ok, as do the Nordic nations. Typically, the conservative response is that someone managed to lift themselves from the bootstraps. My problem with that is that the people who argue that don’t seem to recognize that said person could be a statistical outlier and that your probability of going from rags to riches is far higher in a more equal society.

      I see a similar dynamic happening here with your answer.

      1. hreik

        For sure I am an outlier b/c I worked part time most of the time my children were young and NOT for big bucks. Once they were school age I changed jobs completely and although my degree was necessary for the work I did, I was not “practicing medicine”.

    4. Kurtismayfield

      The cost of household support has next to zero to do with our decision to become parents. If minimum wage was raised, we would still choose to have families – even though, in the words of Marie Curie, it is not easy.

      This is because you can afford it. You are also part of maybe 5% of the US population who can. What the rest of the US has to do is make decisions about having children based upon economics. I know If we had three kids the child care costs would have destroyed us. You obviously had the liberty to choose.. enjoy it.

      1. Beans

        My point is that the authors of the study are trying to draw a direct corrolation between minimum wage and the number of children a high earning female has. While my personal situation is anecdotal, I still dispute the conclusion based on my direct knowledge of what many other high income women in dentistry consider important- we have conferences, large networked groups on line, etc. where this kind of stuff is discussed. Not once has minimum wage ever been discussed with regard to child care. By and large, nannys and domestic help already make considerably more than minimum wage.
        You are probably right that women who are not earning as much as a dentist earns will have to consider childcare costs more. While that is truly unfortunate, the study specifically tries to tie high income women’s procreation to minimum wage. In doing so, many other factors were ignored. It’s just not a good study.

    5. Just Wonderin'

      Hi Beans,

      I think you put your finger on something important:
      There’s more to the decision to have a family than just the nanny’s wages.

      People in the top 2-3 deciles simply don’t have to sweat over that number. (It may be more significant down at say deciles 3-6, where spending 10-20% of your income on child care is a real concern.) But other social factors are probably more important. For example if you are lucky enough to work for a company with paid family leave time and a guaranteed position when you come back, etc. you might feel more free to have kids. (Duh!) The earlier wave of women professionals didn’t have these sorts of protection in place.

    6. Yves Smith Post author

      You must not live in NYC or a high cost city or have a super high earning husband. One income isn’t enough to support a family in a decent school district or pay for private schools (and kids in the big cities have to go to the right kindergarten and even pre-K to get into the “right” schools so they can go to college).

      Moreover, how exactly do your restart your practice after having raised kids? Patients don’t fall off trees.

      Honestly, unless you live in a very low cost city or outside the US, your story does not sound credible. Dentists aren’t very high earners, unless you are doing cosmetic dentistry to the stars and other very affluent people who will overpay for someone they consider to be a name, and for that, you could not afford meaningful career interruption

  9. Joel

    This reminds me of Mary Wallstonecraft’s observation that women could reconcile family and personal actualization with as few as two servants.

  10. HotFlash

    Anecdote: next door neighbours were a college professor (him) and a lawyer (her). Big old house in a gentrifying ‘hood, two kids, live-in housekeeper/nanny. I was on hi-how-are-you terms with all the household, but mostly with Anna the nanny (taking the girls to/from school, taking out the trash, etc). One day Anna was all smiling and excited — told me she was moving out, to ‘her own place’. I asked if I would see her again, she said yes, of course, but she needed her own place since her son was coming from the Philippines to live with her. She was so excited! I asked how old he was, she said, “Eight.”

  11. knowbuddhau

    Don’t we already have too many people? Are these high-skilled women looking into the future world their kids will grow up in? Or is “having a family,” which entails a lot more than just simple reproduction, ever an always an alloyed good?

    Organisms don’t exist in vacuo. But we’ve come to consider them just like the amputated body parts in anatomy texts. In fact, there are no organisms without environments. This being the case, it’s best to see them, that is, us, as organism/environment fields. We only cut them up in our analysis, which is all too rarely followed by adequate synthesis.

    Every human born demands a minimal amount of Mother Earth. There already isn’t enough Mother to go around. And what there is, ain’t what She used to be.

    We’re flying, not at super-duper speed like in the recent past, but now at hyper-dyper speed right into clearly foreseeable terrain.

  12. Altandmain

    It seems to me that the best solution might be to adopt what France has.

    That would mean:

    – A good daycare system publicly paid for
    – Resources for parents and especially single parents
    – A system to allow women back to work no matter where they are on the income scale

    I just hope that the French can keep the neoliberal rot away. The current government is heading fast in the wrong direction. Look at Macron’s labour reforms. I am alarmed to see an equal to “Right to Work” in France. Social benefits will no doubt be under siege soon.

    Even if the top 10% or so have decent fertility rates, it does not resolve the problem of the massive inequality in economic fortunes. We cannot have a society where only the top 10% have good economic opportunities and the rest of us are left to rot.

    I can’t help but think that the Clinton supporters have done a lot to discredit the causes they claim to be championing.

    Class differences among women are an all but taboo subject. But scholars such as Leslie McCall have found that economic inequality among women is just as large, and has been growing just as fast, as economic inequality among men.This economic divide among women has created one of the most significant fault lines in contemporary feminism. That’s because professional-class women, who have reaped a disproportionate share of feminism’s gains, have dominated the feminist movement, and the social distance between them and their less privileged sisters is wide and growing wider. In the decades since the dawn of the second wave, educated women gained access to high-status jobs, but working-class women experienced declining wages and (because of the rise of divorce and single parenthood among the working class) shouldered an increasingly heavy burden of care. Yet mainstream feminist groups and pundits have consistently stressed the social and cultural issues that are most important to affluent women, while marginalizing the economic concerns of the female masses.

    But if you’re a woman living paycheck to paycheck and worried sick over the ever-diminishing economic prospects for you and your children, you’re unlikely to be heavily invested in whether some lady centimillionaire will shatter the ultimate glass ceiling. Exacerbating the problem is that Clinton, the person whom feminists blithely assumed that working-class women would deeply identify with (because after all, didn’t they?) was such a painfully flawed candidate. In addition to a political record littered with betrayals of women, people of color, labor, and other key constituencies, she showed arrogance and terrible judgment by giving the Wall Street speeches and setting up her own State Department e-mail server. That was gross political malpractice.

    Another article:

    Particularly galling to me were the people who claimed that feminists should vote for Clinton over Sanders. Sanders may very well have taken the US into a direction closer to the French or the Nordic nations. I’m not saying Sanders was perfect, but he would have made serious attempts to address the gross inequalities.

    This neoliberal feminism will discredit the movement and worse, undermine real solutions for the problems that society faces. I wonder if the top 10%, man or women alike has become the petite bourgeoisie that Karl Marx once complained about. Their actions are aligned with those of the 1%. Ultimately, I think we need to acknowledge that class is more important than race, gender, or frankly, anything else.

    1. tony

      Except the US has a TFR similar to the nordic countries, with only Sweden being marginally higher, while the rest have a clearly lower TFR. French case seems to be an exception, probably based on the French being rather socially conservative.

      1. Charles 2

        French social conservatism (either with Christian root or Muslim root) is not the cause for relatively high fertility. As the Guardian article emphasises, it is the structural and financial facilities for raising young kids that make the difference.
        One often overlooked feature is that salaried women in Europe are protected during pregnancy. In France, they are practically unfirable from the day they become pregnant for a period lasting between 60 to 100 weeks. Once a woman has decided that “one day she will have a child”, strategic timing pregnancy is not uncommon, especially in big corporations in cyclical sectors.
        Of course, it triggers some adverse selection effects in hiring practices for 25-35 yo women. You can’t have an action without a reaction I guess…

      2. Altandmain

        One problem though. How many children in the US are basically in deep poverty versus say France or Norway?

        A nation must be able to provide a good life for its children and to set up the next generation for success as best it can.

        Right now only the top 10 percent truly have that opportunity. A high birthrate without a solid social investment into the next generation is surely a nation in deep crisis.

    2. cripes

      But, but, but, you’re talking Class Warfare! Oh noes!

      Poor women should identify with the success of credentialed, high-earner Wimmin from good colleges! And stop complaining.
      Because Role Models. And Firsts!

      Plus, servants are part of the family. We love Filipina food!

  13. Just Wonderin'

    So based on figure 2, since the 90’s, more women with advanced degrees are having children.

    They attribute the change to cheap servants?

    Hmmmm. What else could explain this?

    Maybe the cultural norms have been shifting? More partners helping with child raising and household management? More companies with family friendly policies? Better/more affordable in vitro fertilization techniques? More home delivery and automated conveniences (“home production substitutes”)? More women getting advanced degrees generally reflecting a wider population?

    On a different note, I was somewhat shocked to see the birth rate was higher in almost every bracket. I thought we were trending down all this time. As someone who worries about the impact of humans on the environment, this rise in the reproduction rate alarms me.

    1. cripes

      @Just Wonderin’

      Aaaaand, if current trends continue, everyone will have graduate degrees in a few years and hire “help,” Which will need to be imported.

      BTW, all those “delivery” people Grubhubs and Task Rabbits are poverty-wage help, that don’t live in your basement. They live in their cars.

      Please, please, see this map of Chicago income distributions in 1970 vs 2012, and tell me we aren’t a nation of masters and slaves. I thought I couldn’t be shocked, but I am—-

      1. Just Wonderin'

        Good point, cripes.

        It’s not just the live-in nanny’s labor that’s been beaten down to fire sale rates. It’s all the wage slaves keeping the gold plated toilets polished and the pizza’s delivered.

        And that map is stunning!

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      1. If you think companies in the US and UK have adopted more family friendly policies, you are smoking something very strong. Did you miss that since the Internet area, people in the managerial/professional classes are expected to work well beyond official hours and be effectively on call?

      2. Did you miss that educational costs in the US have exploded and that members of upper income families give very high priority to making sure their kids get the right or at least adequate credentialing so they can earn an adequate income? That means college which costs megabucks. That means both earners need to be in the workforce unless the higher, presumably male, income earner, is a super high earner, like in PE or the hedge fund biz.

      3. Studies in the US show women still do the bulk of the house and child care work. There has been little change on that front.

  14. CalypsoFacto

    this makes me think of (i think) this long essay at American Conservative about some possible outcomes of the current class war. One option they propose- as a better outcome – seems to be limiting immigration and promoting domestic work for domestic laborors along with ‘concessions’ like unions, work/pay protections, etc. I understand the viewpoint, I think – if you accept that everyone should work to earn money, why not extend that to domestic workers – and the idea of unionized domestic help sits better with me. but the phrase ‘keeping servants’ and in-home child care by non-family feel immoral. I’ve elected to not have kids (ashamed to admit that I am in this demographic).

  15. Wade Riddick

    So you say you want a revolution?

    Bear in mind that there’s rarely much change in the political system without a demographic bulge of angry youth. If western fertility rates keep falling like they have, we could be stuck with long, stagnant oligarchies much longer than we think. Nothing about justice is inevitable in the short term.

    Without immigrants, America’s fertility levels are much closer to Italy’s than we think – and perhaps our capacity to change too.

    This paper offers important evidence that these falling birth rates, rather than by choice, have been forced on the majority of women by austerity and inequality to an important degree. With more investment in household labor and more social services like healthcare, daycare and education, these minimum wage nannies might be making much different reproductive decisions themselves – provided they could find good partners too (but let’s not talk about the social disinvestment in ordinary men presently).

    As popular as new-Malthusianism is these days, I would remind you of its epic predictive failures over the last two centuries. Technology changes. That has always been the weakness in Malthusian arguments and if you want to overcome the wreckage of the fossil fuel era, you will need bright, eager young people who see its contradictions, can imagine a better future and figure out how to bring it to pass.

    1. Wukchumni

      Malthus was onto something, except he couldn’t have figured on a few important factors that allowed us to octuple from a billion human beans in his time, namely oil and the Haber-Bosch Process, allowing for almost unlimited Ag.

      I find it fascinating that the H-B Process came about right around the same time almost unlimited fiat money replaced the Au standard, worldwide.

      I was just reading about the algae blooms off the east coast and all over the place that are oxygen deprived ‘dead zones’, as an end result of the debris left overs of the H-B Process, dumped into the ocean.

      And sooner than later, there’ll be a similar result when the fiat lady sings.

      1. Wade Riddick

        Thank you for proving my point. Technology saved us from Malthus before. It will save us again. On our present trajectory solar power will cut electricity prices by 70-90% in twenty years and car batteries will reach gas tank equivalence in about five.

        And who invents technology?

        Why, people do – those very same people of whom you think we have too many.

        As far as the gold standard goes, we have a modern equivalent at work in the euro and it imposes austerity all across Europe – and falling birth rates.

        How do you plan to pay for Social Security and Medicare with these awful dependency ratios?

        1. witters

          “Technology saved us from Malthus before. It will save us again.” [Translation: “The monkey can’t fail. It is too smart.”]

          I don’t think that a smart thought.

          (The article itself is pure Francis Galton.)

        2. LyonNightroad

          Right, and if you were looking at airplane technology in the 60s, you’d expect planes today to carry 20,000 passengers and fly at mach 10. Your belief that technology will solve our problems amounts to Faith. It would be one thing if the population hadn’t already expanded beyond what current technology and our planet can continously sustain, but our situation now depends on the promise of some technological savior that may never come.

        3. Wukchumni

          Technology has brought us to a remarkable pinnacle, and as always there’s a price to be paid, and I fully expect to not receive anything in either SS or Medicaid by the time i’ll eligible, as even with the advent of money conjured up out of thin air, there are limits to everything, i.e. there is no free lunch, and watching pension foibles in most every state in the union, there appears to be no there, there, aside from the usual chicanery and gross underfunding.

          Coming up with more efficient solar panels and batteries will do nothing to stop accelerating climate change, that cow has left the barn.

          So, there was no QE in regards to the euro?, and birth rates in Europe were much higher under the Au standard than presently, and that standard was decidedly more austere financially.

          1. Wade Riddick

            Correlation is not causation. There were higher birth rates a century ago in Europe not because of the gold standard but because birth control hadn’t been invented yet and women had limited job and educational opportunities – not to mention rights – outside the home.

            Austerity includes measures like gutting pensions (pay for work already done) and Medicare (pay for future healthcare that is overpriced). Austerity provides deflation, which benefits cartels – the same cartels you hate for poisoning the world’s environment and hijacking the political system.

            Austerity is there to tell us peons we’re not worthy of investment but somehow the rich magically are. Yet when the jobs that only the rich can create never materialize from the tax giveaways somehow we never fire the lazy, incompetent rich dudes and outsource their jobs to a country with cheaper rich dudes.

            And the limits to government investment are determined by inflation.

      2. Synoia

        Haber-Bosch Process, allowing for almost unlimited Ag.

        And some very good (or bad) high explosives.

  16. Wade Riddick

    Had you bothered to ask me in 1960 how much more improvement we would see in aircraft, I would have said not much. It’s not that hard to understand atmospheric friction or project efficiency improvements in the internal combustion engine. Like all technology, it follows an S-shaped curve and it was approaching the asymptote – meaning there wasn’t much theoretical efficiency left to squeeze out of it.

    Those of us who have studied this as an academic subject know that technology has a birth, middle age and old age. The oil industry has entered old age. With each passing year, we don’t get more power out of burning a barrel of oil and it costs more to pull it out of the ground. I’m predicting the eventual death of the fossil fuel business and yet you two are so turned around intellectually that you’ve accused me of just the opposite.

    As to solar power, I’m simply adding up all the innovations already waiting for commercialization in labs and projecting the end efficiency in consumer products. It’s not hard – if you care enough to take the time. Steve Jobs would do this with semiconductors years before the final product shipped.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Because science and technology have so clearly commercialized so many beneficial socially useful innovations and injected them into the political colony over the last several hundred years. And yes, I know about penicillin, though of course due to commercialization of antibiotics into animal feed and overuse, we now have new challenges called colloquially “superbugs” that are of course providing technophiles more opportunities to tell us, like with so many other challenges we humans have summoned up, that the solutions are in the labs (of corporations and captive universities?) just waiting to be commercialized. Though of course everyone is vulnerable to superbugs, including software infections, but only a subset of us will be able to pay the market rate for the remedies— which if past is prologue, will induce their own challenges.

    2. Synoia

      Had you bothered to ask me in 1960 how much more improvement we would see in aircraft, I would have said not much.

      An you’d have been correct, from a passenger’s point of view. Flight time have changed little since the 707 was introduces, seats have got smaller, and meals worse.

      I’ve been flying, as a passenger, since 1950. I estimate my lifetime air mileage over 3 million, and I’m ashamed of my carbon bootprint.

      Longest flight ever, LA to Sydney. Longest multiple trips over a long route, Johannesburg to NY. Longest trip ever, Pieter Maritzburg, ZA to Vancouver, BC.

      Worst flight ever, United, Chicago to John Wayne in 2012.

      Most “interesting” flights, AA, Phoenix to Dallas, where I observed the cabin pressurization was faulty, have to get the flight crew engaged (sit down sir!!), and we returned very quickly with many flashing lights on both sides of the runway, or when the engine fell of an Airbus on talking off from Heath-row.

      Best flight ever, Seeing Tomato Juice and cocktails dripping of the ceiling of an BOAC Argonaut, flying over the Sahara desert, and asking if that could be done again.

  17. Dave in Austin

    It seems there is something wrong with the stats being cited in this article. If I remember correctly, U.S. fertility has been going down so the fertility rate (including new immigrants with a higher rate) is a bit under 2.0 children/woman. Yet chart one, above, seems to say the present fertility rate is roughly 2.5 (add up the 10% segments and devide by 10) This is clearly wrong.

    The authors are pointing out the obvious, but an obvious that disturbs most educated working women; the life they lead depends on a reservee army of cheap, docile servants doing the family work. And, to make the problem worse, the largest source of poor women in large urban areas who might work in the houses of the rich- poor native-born black women- are not hired. Why? My guess is the fear of and unfamiliarity with the Black underclass (will she steal from me?) leads to discrimination. Also the discomfort educated women feel when they are dropped into Gone With The Wind relationships with Blacks is very real.

    So Maria from Mexico is hired- uncomplaining, inexpensive and likely to stay with the family and not leave abruptly or go to the government and ask embarrasing questions about overtime.

    To the credit of all involved the upper class, educated (and usually white) women try to make it work as do the underclass servants. But watching richer immigrants from societies where servants are common and how they treat the servants is an interesting comparison. They feel no guilt or discomfort. As the descendant of Irish Catholics living in RI who often got a first job in “Upstairs Downstairs” mansions in Newport, and an educated person who now moves in the world of those who employ servants, I see- and hope I understand- the nature of the relationship.

    But for educated, dual-income, urban professional, women who lean strongly liberal and Democratic the little Marxist/domestic world they live in is deeply troubling and they prefer not to think about it. And when faced with with the model of traditional educated women who stay home when the children are being raised… The real interesting comparison is other industrial countries where day care, more disciplined children, safer environments and school choice allow a variety of options for educated women and the families.

  18. Paul Hirschman

    Reminds me a little of Larry Summers’ (in)famous statement that solving the garbage problem in the West is no big deal: poor countries in Africa would (should?) welcome our garbage because the value of their land and other resources is so meager. They’d be willing to charge so much less to take our garbage than it costs us to get rid of our garbage locally because the value of their land and human resources is so low.

    Isn’t the reasoning of these authors a beautiful example of neoliberal logic? (Comparative advantage in family matters: mom’s labor time is soooo valuable that it’s just nuts to have her spend it raising Janey and Johnny–better to have other people–whose labor is so cheap–spend their time picking up after the kinder.)

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