Sunday, December 25, 2011

Soup Weather and a Freaknomics #Fail

Happy holidays, to those who are celebrating. I'm having a wonderfully relaxing weekend.

Lately I've been making up a lot of "recipes" (they're not all that involved, really) to use up various ingredients in the pantry and fridge and stuff that intrigue me at the farmers market. Now that it's gotten cold, I crave soup. So I took some kale from the farmers market, went to the backyard and picked the last of the tomatoes on the wilted vines (this was a couple of weeks ago), boiled it all with some tofu and seasoned with Hawaiian salt and presto, a warm hearty soup. I liked the earthiness of the kale, the silkiness of the tofu and sourness of the tomatoes, with the very lightly-seasoned broth.

Today's Reading
I'm finally finding the energy and will to pick up and finish some of the many books around the house. I've re-started "Super Freakonomics" and am enjoying it very much, as I knew I would. This one I got autographed by Stephen Dubner, too, after I heard him speak at an IT Finance conference last year. I was so excited to meet him! He was as geeky as I'd imagined, hahaha.

Anyway, I'm still about halfway through but wanted to jot down some thoughts about one of the chapters, the one about prostitution. While the main premise and analysis of the declining wages of prostitutes and factors affecting supply and demand was all very geeky and interesting ("pimpact"! hahaha!), I was a little perturbed with one assertion.

While discussing the wage disparity between men and women, even (or especially) highly educated women such as lawyers, doctors, etc., the authors cited a study of more than 2,000 male and female MBAs from the University of Chicago that concluded "while gender discrimination may be a minor contributor to the male-female wage differential, it is desire - or the lack thereof - that accounts for most of the wage gap." (Bertrand, Goldin, Katz).

So then the authors went on to say that "The big issue seems to be that many women, even those with MBAs, love kids."

Ummmm, excuse me? That's the best you could do??

First of all, I have a problem with the study's conclusion. How can "desire" alone be cited as a primary cause of the gender wage gap? What about all the factors that led up to the development of desire or lack of desire in men and women?

And, I have to say, I was quite disappointed to see the authors use the "women love kids" argument. I don't have anything against women who leave the workforce to raise their children. But isn't there also social stigma - why must women choose between one or the other? Why are women the ones primarily expected to take time off to care for children - even just days off to pick up sick kids, etc.?

One of the factors affecting the promotability and success at work is the number of days spent at work, and one statistic that is cited is the number of days women take off versus men. If women forgo time with their kids to prioritize work, they are "heartless" and a "bad mother". But if men do the same thing, it's acceptable as a "breadwinner" thing to do. And so if women exhibit the desire to advance and are demonized, what choice do they have but to step back?

Why don't men take the same amount of time off as women to take care of their children? Do men really love their children less than their mothers do? I highly doubt that. But instead, I think we've been conditioned to accept that the father is supposed to be the breadwinner and provide for the family, so his work can't be interrupted to stay home with a sick child, or his business trips can't be scheduled around the kids' field trips, while the mother's work is less important and thus she is expected to either flex her schedule up or down or, if work isn't that flexible, quit her job (or find another, lower paying job).

I know I am generalizing, too, but I'm disappointed that some of my favorite economists/authors took this easy out. Let's hope other chapters and arguments are better.

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