Alison Wolf argues that as the gap between genders has narrowed for the affluent, the gap between rich and poor women has broadened. The former’s professional success is made possible by “the return of the servant classes”—almost uniformly female housekeepers and nannies who free their employers to pull farther ahead. “Until now, all women’s lives, whether rich or poor, have been dominated by the same experiences and pressures,” she writes. “Today, elite and highly educated women have become a class apart."She also notes, in good economist fashion, that so-called work-life balance is likely to be elusive, as long as people are able to improve their lot by working harder.
If you go to the very, very top and you look at the demands of the jobs which are the top half a percent, even the top tenth of a percent, I personally don’t believe we’re ever going to get work-life balance into those jobs any more than anybody did really in the past. It’s also why I believe they will never really be 50-50. I think we’ll end up one-third to two-thirds at the very, very top, as a kind of stable thing. I’m an academic because although I work all the time, I have amazing control over when and where I do it. I think for a lot of women, that is appealing, and there will always be more women who make that choice than men.And to be an effective economist, one must be sensitive to trade-offs.
It’s not like everybody had their lives transformed for the better. We are still living on the labor of other people, but so was everybody in the past. It’s saying, okay, there are things that are unfinished, there are things that are not right, but we have truly transformed the world in which we live. It’s a completely different society and one that to me is definitely for the better. I cannot see why one would want to go back.To push it further, though: all of civil society depends ultimately upon some sort of division of labor.