April 06, 2007

Your Career Means You Don't Really Love Me

by PG

Last month, co-blogger Armen declared that he is "a firm believer in prenups," to avoid the eventuality under California law that "when she leave yo ass she gonna leave with half." As I was reading reviews of Leslie Bennetts's The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? that emphasize how women who stay home get screwed by divorce, two related thoughts came to mind.

First, this appears to be the sort of thing one would want to build into prenuptial agreements: a spouse who has worked solely the primary domestic caretaker should be compensated for forgoing career opportunities, whereas one who has worked outside the home and split domestic responsibilities need not be.

Second, inasmuch as some people refuse to get prenuptial agreements because of the underlying assumption that the marriage might end in divorce, this is an equally good -- or rather, bad -- argument to deploy against a person who works outside the home purely for reasons of economic self-interest even when the family unit would be better off if s/he did only and all the domestic work (think of Becker's labor specialization arguments*). If I go to work solely because I don't want to be left high and dry in case of divorce, thus subtracting most of my labor from what is available to the household, this is likely to have more impact on the marriage and related obligations than a single prenuptial agreement would.

* Speaking of Becker's ideas about households, he and his co-blogger Posner have some odd ideas about childrearing. Posner is more reasonable, albeit a little legally dubious:

It is an open question whether it makes a big difference whether the two parents are of the same or different sexes. My guess is that only if having parents of the same sex leads the child to be ridiculed by other children[,] are children raised in homosexual households highly likely to suffer, and the more common such households become, the less ridicule there will be.
Given that the topic was whether the government should subsidize marriage, Posner's concern about whether certain family types might cause children to suffer from their peers' ridicule shouldn't come into play, because the government could not decide which marriages were better (and worthy of subsidy) on that basis alone. After all, the courts have recognized that a white child with a black stepparent might suffer from ridicule, yet that is not reason for that child to be raised by two white parents instead, and presumably not reason to subsidize intra- but not inter-racial marriages. I realize that the question arose in the context of Tory leader David Cameron's proposal for Britain, but the Bush administration supposedly has considered similar measures, and Posner was commenting on the general idea, not just its specific application in the UK.

Becker declares, "I am persuaded that children raised by two gays or lesbians do worse than children raised by heterosexual parents, although the evidence is far too limited to be certain about this." He gives absolutely nothing to explain to readers what has persuaded him. If his belief is motivated by the sort of common sense invoked by a majority of the New York Court of Appeals, all right, but common sense isn't exactly a matter of persuasion; as Einstein put it, "Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen." Saying "I am persuaded" implies that something or someone did the persuading, and I would be curious as to what made a Nobel Prize winning social scientist think that a position for which the evidence is not merely limited, but the little existing evidence not even tilting in favor of his conclusion, is correct.

April 6, 2007 01:35 AM | TrackBack
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