This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Paths to Gender Equality

A major theme surrounding below replacement fertility is that women have a tough time juggling both a career and domestic life when men aren't much help around the house. So, if a woman wants to have a career, she winds up having fewer children. Today's New York Times offers lengthy stories discussing two alternatives to this world view: (1) stay-at-home Dads; and (2) lowering the standards with respect to housework.

In the first story, Jodi Kantor and Jessica Silver-Greenberg review a set of interviews that they conducted in several places in the US with women who are the bread-winners largely because they have high-powered jobs in finance, making more money than their husband could have. Instead of two incomes and a smaller family, the women are married to men who are staying home to take care of the kids.
In an industry still dominated by men with only a smattering of women in its highest ranks, these bankers make up a small but rapidly expanding group, benefiting from what they call a direct link between their ability to achieve and their husbands’ willingness to handle domestic duties. The number of women in finance with stay-at-home spouses has climbed nearly tenfold since 1980, according to an analysis of census data, and some of the most successful women in the field are among them.
The article is careful to point out that is not a choice available to most couples. Two-earner families are often a requirement in order to maintain what we think of as an acceptable standard of living. The comments at the end of the article also point to the many issues involved in trying to increase the level of gender equality in the workplace and family both at the same time. This is obviously not a simple issue...

The second article, written by a man, takes a different view--increase gender equality in housework by doing less housework (no mention of the kids, however).
The solution to the gender divide in housework generally is just that simple: don’t bother. Leave the stairs untidy. Don’t fix the garden gate. Fail to repaint the peeling ceiling. Never make the bed.  A clean house is the sign of a wasted life, truly. Hope is messy: Eventually we’ll all be living in perfect egalitarian squalor.
The fact that there was little mention of who takes care of the kids is important because, in my experience, it is the kids who make the biggest contribution to squalor. For adults, a little self-discipline should be all that's necessary.

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