Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Housework: Boyfriends v. Husbands

According to a recent study, "married men report doing less housework than men who are live-in boyfriends." According to the press release, the authors argue "Marriage as an institution seems to have a traditionalizing effect on couples—even couples who see men and women as equal."

I have a couple of questions. First, is there a causal relationship here or is this just selection bias? That is, when people move from living together to being married, do behaviors change so that men now do less housework -- in which case, marriage may have a "traditionalizing" effect? Or is the observed relationship merely the result of differences in the people who choose to get married? If the set of people who live together have different views on gender norms (or different preferences for housework) than the set of people who never live together before marriage, we should expect to observe differences in the allocation of housework when comparing these two groups. These differences, however, have little to do with marriage and everything to do with differences in who chooses to ever live together before marriage.

Second, assume that there is an actual marriage effect (so the same couple changes their allocation of housework when they move from living together to married), isn't there a more precise way of describing the mechanism than "traditionalization" -- what does that even mean? Let's give it a shot:

What changes when a couple moves from living together to married that would allow men to get away with doing less housework? If we view housework as something distasteful and hold everything else constant, the observed relationship suggests that the move to marriage increases the women's enjoyment of the relationship (their surplus) and decreases their bargaining position.

If women don't get some extra benefit out of being married but end up incurring the extra costs of more housework, why would they ever accept marriage proposals? Thus, this story assumes that women (contrary to some other research) enjoy extra benefits from marriage. Furthermore, men must be able to figure out that women are enjoying extra benefits and use the fact that their partner faces now higher costs of dissolving the relationship to extract at least some of their spouses increased enjoyment of the relationship in the form of reduced housework. Thus, in this highly simplified story, women essentially bribe men to marry them by offering to do more of the housework.

Now, while I could probably come up with more sophisticated and realistic stories for what's going on, isn't that simple story more satisfying than simply saying that marriage "traditionalizes" relationships?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Serious Foreign Policy

Jon Stewart takes on our "serious" foreign policy establishment.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


For much of the past 15 years, I've lived in locations with lots of panhandlers. As such, I've been forced to consistently struggle with the question of whether or not to succumb to their entreaties. Ultimately, I've developed a strict policy against it. An important step in this process was the day I sat perched in a window above Harvard Square with a great view of the panhandler at the CVS across the street. As my friend and I sat there watching him, we started doing a rough calculation of his wage (we were both labor economists after all). For simplicity, we assumed an average contribution of a quarter and then we simply counted the number of people who gave. After about an hour of watching, we were stunned. This panhandler was easily making over $15 per hour.

Steve Levitt highlights a passage which points out that panhandlers in NYC make even more:

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I feel a little funny, since you guys pay out of your own pockets. Do you know how much we make out here, panhandling, during rush hour?’

“No, how much?”

“About a dollar a minute.”


Saturday, August 11, 2007

I cannot put my reaction to this in words

Dirty hippies like me are frequently accused of "hoping" that we fail in Iraq. This is not true. I'd love to see us succeed in Iraq, I just don't believe that it is going to happen. Thus, I am angry that we keep wasting resources while hoping that a magic pony will appear and make everything ok.

The freaked out about terrorists crowd, though, appears to have reached the point of explicitly hoping for another 9/11. I find this pretty freakin' disturbing.

Friday, August 10, 2007

More evidence on the benefits of TV

From Robert Jensen and Emily Oster:

Cable and satellite television have grown rapidly throughout the developing world. The availability of cable and satellite television exposes viewers to new information about the outside world, which may affect individual attitudes and behaviors. This paper explores the effect of the introduction of cable television on gender attitudes in rural India. Using a three-year individual-level panel dataset, we find that the introduction of cable television is associated with improvements in women's status. We find significant increases in reported autonomy, decreases in the reported acceptability of beating and decreases in reported son preference. We also find increases in female school enrollment and decreases in fertility (primarily via increased birth spacing). The effects are large, equivalent in some cases to about five years of education in the cross section, and move gender attitudes of individuals in rural areas much closer to those in urban areas. We argue that the results are not driven by pre-existing differential trends. These results have important policy implications, as India and other countries attempt to decrease bias against women.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Can we all agree to stop listening to these people?

Update: For more on why we should stop listening these "serious" people, I highly recommend this piece.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]