Recent analysis from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that in 33 states and the District of Columbia, infant care costs exceed the average cost of in-state college tuition at public four-year institutions.There's probably a simple regression analysis to run and clarify the extent to which higher day-care bills track female labor force participation and household incomes. But it's rare to see, to a first approximation, day care expenses tracking incomes.
"Women lose $11,000 a year on average because of the pay gap, which incidentally is just about the average yearly cost of child care in the U.S.," Tracy Sturdivant, cofounder and codirector of Make It Work, a campaign to advance economic security for working women, men, and families, points out.At the margin, oughtn't the equilibrium working mom be indifferent between staying attached to the labor force (which makes the so-called pay gap go away) or leaving the labor force (which depresses lifetime earnings). Am I missing something here, to observe that the price of a service reflects the value of its marginal product? But Ms Sturdivant isn't going to let an arbitrage argument get in the way of a good rant.
In order to retain talented parents, Sturdivant says there are some things employers can do to ease the strain, beginning by ensuring they're paying women and men the same amount for equal work.It's likely that employers are already paying comparable workers comparable salaries, otherwise there are arbitrage opportunities for workers or for corporate raiders. It's also likely that managers don't want to antagonize single or empty-nester employees by sticking them with extra work and calling it a family-friendly policy. And workers might be opting off the 24/7 treadmill, kids or not.
"Additionally," she says, "employers can support working parents through policies like fair, flexible scheduling, paid sick days, and paid family leave, so that they’re never forcing their employees to choose between work and family."
Heck, old New Leftist Nancy Fraser is having second thoughts about the way vanguardists deconstructed the existing institutions.
For me, feminism is not simply a matter of getting a smattering of individual women into positions of power and privilege within existing social hierarchies. It is rather about overcoming those hierarchies. This requires challenging the structural sources of gender domination in capitalist society — above all, the institutionalized separation of two supposedly distinct kinds of activity: on the one hand, so-called “productive” labor, historically associated with men and remunerated by wages; on the other hand, “caring” activities, often historically unpaid and still performed mainly by women. In my view, this gendered, hierarchical division between “production” and “reproduction” is a defining structure of capitalist society and a deep source of the gender asymmetries hard-wired in it. There can be no “emancipation of women” so long as this structure remains intact.In the days before scientific medicine and agriculture, and mechanized manufacturing, heck, before manufacturing of any kind, that "hard-wiring" looks a lot like an evolutionary stable strategy. Those developments made a greater prosperity possible, but their adoption and diffusion have been emergent, although the most successful adaptations thereto have not emerged. But women participating in the labor force cannot be faulted, as Ms Fraser is, for seeking more favorable terms of employment. That's what identifying and acting upon gains from trade is all about, and working hours and vacations are two margins along which an employer and an employee can optimize.
Mainstream feminism has adopted a thin, market-centered view of equality, which dovetails neatly with the prevailing neoliberal corporate view. So it tends to fall into line with an especially predatory, winner-take-all form of capitalism that is fattening investors by cannibalizing the living standards of everyone else. Worse still, this feminism is supplying an alibi for these predations. Increasingly, it is liberal feminist thinking that supplies the charisma, the aura of emancipation, on which neoliberalism draws to legitimate its vast upward redistribution of wealth.Let us draw the curtain of charity.
No, let's let Ms Fraser have a good wallow in the sixties.
In the 1970s, feminists developed a powerful critique of the postwar cultural ideal known as the “family wage.” That ideal held that women should be full-time homemakers and their husbands should be the family’s sole (or at least principal) breadwinners, earning enough to support an entire household. Certainly, only a minority of American families managed to achieve this ideal. But it had enormous currency in a phase of capitalism premised on mass-production manufacturing and relatively well-paid unionized work for (especially white) men. All that changed, however, with the eruption of second-wave feminism, which rejected the family wage as sexist, a pillar of male domination and women’s dependency. At this stage, the movement still shared the anticapitalist ethos of the New Left. Its critique was not aimed at valorizing wage labor, still less at denigrating unpaid carework. On the contrary, the feminists of this period were challenging the androcentrism of a society that prioritized “profits over people,” economic production over human and social reproduction. They sought to transform the system’s deep structures and animating values — in part by decentering wage work and valorizing unwaged activities, especially the socially necessary carework performed by women.Fifty years of no-fault divorce and bastardy and the rise of the pick-up artists later, how well has that turned out?
Not well. But it's more fun to rant than to analyze.
Today, the feminist critique of the family wage has assumed an altogether different cast. Its overwhelming thrust is now to validate the new, more “modern” household ideal of the “two earner family,” which requires women’s employment and squeezes out time for unpaid carework. In endorsing this ideal, the mainstream feminism of the present aligns itself with the needs and values of contemporary neoliberal capitalism. This capitalism has conscripted women into the paid work force on a massive scale, while also exporting manufacturing to the global south, weakening trade unions, and proliferating low-paid, precarious McJobs. What this has meant, of course, is declining real wages, a sharp rise in the number of hours of paid work per household needed to support a family, and a desperate scramble to transfer carework to others in order to free up more time for paid work. How ironic, then, that it is given a feminist gloss! The feminist critique of the family wage, once directed against capitalism’s devaluation of caregiving, now serves to intensify capitalism’s valorization of waged labor.Would she rather that the manufacturing not be exported to the global south, thus setting off a Malthusian dynamic, rather than reducing the number of people scraping out a living the way their ancestors half a millennium ago did?
As far as "conscripting women into the paid work force," well, your income is somebody else's expenditure. "Thus, to hope that a family can 'get by' on one income with current levels of labor force participation by women is to hope that the laws of conservation in economics don't work." Deal with it.