Thursday, August 24, 2006

Don't Marry Career Men

I don't normally read Forbes, but I had to laugh about the brouhaha raised by Don't Marry Career Women. I didn't read the original piece before it was pulled from the website and the rebuttal went up. Too bad. I like provocative writing.

If you stay calm and keep reading to the end, he states:
A word of caution, though: As with any social scientific study, it's important not to confuse correlation with causation. In other words, just because married folks are healthier than single people, it doesn't mean that marriage is causing the health gains. It could just be that healthier people are more likely to be married.

Sociology is not my area of research expertise, but I have a great deal of experience living this research topic. Perhaps the advice should be don't marry career men. I say this slightly tongue in cheek, as career men are more likely to come with nice perks such as health insurance and retirement plans. But, maybe the reason that career women are more likely to divorce is because they are more likely to be married to white collar career men.

Arlie Hochschild discovered 20 years ago in her groundbreaking work, The Second Shift, that white collar men are most likely to talk about how much housework they did. But, in time studies where graduate students actually observed the families in their home, white collar men did the least housework. Blue collar men were most likely to report not doing housework-even while they were doing it. The conclusion was that the professional men married to professional wives knew that they were supposed to do housework. Hence they self-reported performing more housework than they actually did.

Maybe career women are more likely to divorce their career men because they have the financial independence to kick the bums out.

I have been meaning to write about Lariane Zappert's book, Getting It Right: How Working Mothers Successfully Take Up the Challenge of Life, Family, and Career (GIR) for some time. It makes an interesting companion piece to Unbending Gender (UG). GIR is about the experiences of alumnae (female graduates) of the Stanford Business School. UG is about the legal treatment of women's work with a special emphasis on the experiences of women in the legal profession. (I have yet to discover a book about women with PhDs in science dealing with the two-body problem of marriage to a man with a PhD in science.) UG is a great book, though heavy reading. I highly recommend it.

I did not find GIR as useful, though it was written to be more accessible for busy people. It was full of concise talking points or "lessons learned" lists. It was a book in powerpoint (and I don't mean that in a good way). Additionally, the coping strategies of the women in the study were way beyond the financial means of most women. The author even notes that most women do not have the same resources as women with MBAs from Stanford. My favorite part was about how marital happiness correlated most strongly with the amount of money spent by the families on outsourcing housework!

Enough ink has been spilled about the infamous New York Times piece. A great deal has also been written about Linda Hirschman's much more interesting article about "choice feminism". I didn't really feel like it was worth adding my own two cents about the topic. But I am surprised by others' reactions to Hirshman's article. I think she was right. You might not like her tone, but her facts are straight.

As near as I could tell, her points are the result of careful research. They also agree with the findings of others. Hirshman suggested having only one child Hochschild reported that marital satisfaction in her research subjects took a precipitous drop upon the birth of the second child. Hirshman wrote that marrying a man slightly older and slightly more successful was the biggest career killer. Zappert also noted that the majority of her subjects did not work full-time. A slight plurality worked part-time, but more were not doing market work than were working full-time. The ones least likely to work were the ones that married someone only slightly older. One possible explanation is that women who marry much older men have more financial resources to outsource the second shift. Women who marry down in income or education are more likely to be able to negotiate more housework from their husbands. All of this sounds so sensible, I don't understand the uproar.

Don't miss this critique of the Forbes opinion piece in Slate.

The NY Times weighs in here about whether as many people read as Forbes claims. Maybe the provacative article was just a ploy to increase readership?

keyword: modern motherhood


  1. (I have yet to discover a book about women with PhDs in science dealing with the two-body problem of marriage to a man with a PhD in science.)

    Sadly, I think that the target audience would be too small to justify the research and publishing costs.

  2. I LOVED your post. I also have some experience living this - and I'd like to add that "marrying down" is something a lot more women should consider.

    I'm a professional woman making 4-8x (depending on the bonus that year) the amount they listed as the threshold for "career girls" and my husband, who is smarter than me in many ways, is just flat out more talented and interested than I am in the domestic thing.

    Right now he's been taking a one-year hiatus from outside paid work (he was in banking, for which the pay is notoriously low) and we've never been happier.

    The author of the original article sounds bitter and too insecure and boring to keep a "career girl" interested in him for long. Grrr - people like him make me crazy. I've added you to Bloglines, keep up the great writing!

  3. I thought the article was quite interesting even though I don't agree with it. I find it somewhat disturbing that Forbes 'hastily' deleted it from its website and then posted a somewhat hastily written rebuttal from his female co-worker. The cynical part of me thinks it was a knee-jerk reaction on part of the magazine to please the "PC-police" (politically correct masses). Well, whatever it can do to retain readers, I suppose.

    I liked the spirited female comeback title. It brought a smile to my face at first. But at the same time I disliked it when I thought about it more. It somewhat bordered on 'name calling' to me. As I read the article, I noticed she relied on anecodtal experience to counterpoint her colleagues arguments, but... would it not have been better to research instead some other social science studies or other published human studies of thought that would more eloquently clairfy or even show that some of the key arguments as presented by Michael may be a little misguided in thought direction? I was somewhat disappointed by the female counterpoint - mostly a reaction that seemed to be emotional rather an intellectual. Ah well, this is the internet, I suppose.

    I liked the Slate opinion on the Forbes article who said that career women may have higher divorce rates than lower income women because they can afford to do so. That is what I thought, too.

    Anyway, articles like these are bound to just attract attention anyway. Or at least increase web hits as you have stated already.

    I find reading the forums more disturbing...sad even. I don't know what sort of audience Forbes Web Forums attracts, but not the sort I want to interact with I think. Not like the knitters, of course. :)

  4. Two-socks, I agree with you about the rebuttal. It looked like it was hastily thrown together without much research. For all I know, Forbes may have given her a 10 minute deadline.

    There are people who have given this issue much thought. People who have done research that can be verified. However, those people are obviously not in the rolodexes of the lazy media (or the media on extremely short deadlines).

    AAAS, the published a study about the status of women in science in their magazine, Science. Their study showed that 80% of women w/ PhDs in physical science were married to men with PhDs in physical science or engineering. (Or something like that. I can't remember how the

    y made their distinctions.) 80% of the female scientists in their sample had the two-body problem. Don't tell me that was not considered worthy of follow-up work.


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