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Unintended Consequences
When Liberal Goals Collide

Generous family leave policies advocated by university feminists seem to have backfired, giving a boost to male faculty members while setting women further behind. The New York Times reports:

The underrepresentation of women among the senior ranks of scholars has led dozens of universities to adopt family-friendly employment policies. But a recent study of economists in the United States finds that some of these gender-neutral policies have had an unintended consequence: They have advanced the careers of male economists, often at women’s expense.

Similar patterns probably hold in other disciplines, too.

The central problem is that employment policies that are gender-neutral on paper may not be gender-neutral in effect. After all, most women receive parental benefits only after bearing the burden of pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, and often, a larger share of parenting responsibilities. Yet fathers usually receive the same benefits without bearing anything close to the same burden.

The study points to an uncomfortable tension between two important goals of the liberal feminist political program: paid leave and equal pay. So long as women shoulder, on average, a disproportionate share of child-rearing responsibilities within families (a cultural predisposition that no government policy is likely to be able to break entirely), it’s possible that parental leave policies will give men more room to advance their careers. Indeed, a 2013 Pew study found a significant (positive) correlation between the length parental leave policies and the size of the gender pay gap.

This is a difficult problem to crack. Giving only mothers time off, and not fathers—as some universities are apparently trying after the failure of the gender neutral policy—seems likely to eventually give rise to progressive objections that it is endorsing traditional gender roles, or discriminating against gay couples (to say nothing of transgender people). But even setting aside those dilemmas, a world where mothers get time off but fathers don’t is also likely to increase the pay disparity in the long run as well. While foregoing care for their children, fathers would enjoy several months of career development that their spouses would not.

None of this means that we shouldn’t keep pursuing a world where men and women can command the same salaries, or where more parents have the flexibility to time off work to raise their young children. But it does mean that we should be cognizant of the limits, in the short run, of government policy in achieving both goals simultaneously.

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  • Frank Natoli

    Students are already paying faculty a full year’s salary when the faculty works at most 2/3 of the year. Now students will be paying faculty when the faculty decide to stay home to start a family. And the students complain about leaving college four years later with $100,000 in loans? And the taxpayer should pick that up?

  • Fat_Man

    Just remember, what they are complaining about is the lack of tenure in social justice studies. the best way to solve this disparity would be to close all liberal arts programs.

  • Blackbeard

    The solution to this problem, from the Left’s point of view, is to convince increasing numbers of women that childbearing is inconsistent with feminism. Think such a radical idea will never succeed? Then why is fertility throughout the industrialized world falling below, in some countries way below, replacement?

    • FriendlyGoat

      Is it purely a feminist idea that birthing and raising children is EXPENSIVE and that increasing numbers of people in industrialized countries are realizing they may not be able to afford it in the manner that a good parent would like to do it?

      • Blackbeard

        When was it ever not expensive to raise a family? And yet in years past we still did it even though the U.S. and western Europe were significantly poorer then. How then do you explain the historically unprecedented drop in fertility?

        • FriendlyGoat

          It was not expensive to raise a family when we were largely an under-mechanized agrarian society and anyone with access to land was open to raising kids to work that land (admittedly often in poverty circumstances). My wife’s father had six siblings. Her mother had twelve. This “doesn’t work well” for most people today, and birth control has made it possible to consider other options.

          I know there are feminists who would prefer not to have a bunch of kids or even any. But, I have to think any young MAN not expecting a life of $100-200K income (and his head on straight) might be tempted to think a vasectomy his best possible investment. It is not “fun” to be the man who under-supports his children, wishes he could do better, but is limited by economic realities.

          • seattleoutcast

            More Malthusian silliness. The population sky has been falling for 200 years. You disregard the innovative and creative spirit of the human mind. The free market and a democratic society has unleashed prosperity greater than anything we’ve ever seen.

            I was raised in a large family, and it was certainly not an agrarian household. We went without trips to Disneyland and I even had to share clothing with my brothers. Oh, the absolute horrors. I had to learn to share, to sacrifice and to live frugally.

            If you wonder why there is an entitlement society today, I wager that indulging children may be a small portion of the reason.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I agree with you that over-indulging children is a social error in rich countries. I don’t agree that having a large group of siblings is necessarily a great—-or even good—- way to grow up. I’ve known too many people who came out of that process with all kinds of hang-ups. And then, in adult life, there is the considerable hassle of managing the crazy uncles, crazy aunts and endless cousins which can accompany large off-springs. Some people pretend to enjoy that chaos in order to say something “nice” about their families. It’s still chaos.

          • seattleoutcast

            I think there are pros and cons to family size. Many single children grow up unable to deal with other people because of the lack of experience. Families are messy ventures in every case.

          • Jim__L

            Your point of view self-evidently has no future.

          • f1b0nacc1

            And that is a good thing. The future belongs to those that show up…

          • FriendlyGoat

            Aside from the struggle to care for one (current) bubble of old people in this country and others, there is nothing bad to consider about any prospect of world population growth leveling off. OF COURSE there is a “future”.

          • Jim__L

            Population is *declining*, FG. That point of view has no future.

            It’s quite ironic that Darwinists support this. Childless Darwinists might as well brand an “L” for “Loser” on their foreheads.

          • FriendlyGoat

            People who choose to be childless are quite aware that not everyone is doing so and that the hospitals will be assisting births every day in this country. No one is “obligated” to reproduce in any particular quantity.
            Making the choice to be childless, or to limit the number of children has nothing to do with what any person thinks about Darwin.
            There are a lot of fundamentalist protestants who are very grateful for modern birth control.

    • Frank Natoli

      Childbearing is acceptable to Democrats as long as it is 100% institutionalized, and that means, at least for present technology, continuing to use human females as nine month incubators and absolutely nothing more than that. Every other consideration is provided by government at taxpayer expense.

      • Blackbeard

        I agree with you that if you are really serious about inequality then institutionalized childcare becomes necessary since otherwise middle class and above parents will give their kids too much of an advantage. However, AFAIK, wherever this has been tried (The early Israeli kibbutzim come to mind.) it has failed as ultimately the parents will not tolerate the separation.

        • Jim__L

          The French tried to outlaw homework, because children whose parents could help them were thought to have too much of an advantage.

          The idea that children might be best off with every possible educational opportunity everyone has to offer them — parents included, parents especially! — never enters the mind of a Leftist, who wishes absolute control over education, because his kind cannot survive any other way.

        • Frank Natoli

          Quite correct. The kibbutzim required all children to be raised by all women equally, no more time with the biological mother than with any other female. And then they discovered the biological mothers were cheating, visiting their own child at night, when no one was looking…but someone was looking. A million years of instinct is going to take a little more than Liberal legislation to exterminate.

  • Jim__L

    ” So long as women shoulder, on average, a disproportionate share of child-rearing responsibilities within families (a [biological] predisposition that no government policy [can possibly] break [ever] )”

    Fixed that for ya.

    Also, if you give fathers *less* time off than women, they’ll probably use the time they’re at work to advance their careers. So apparently there is literally *no policy* that will have the result the feminists want.

    When will society come back to the realization that raising the next generation of human beings **is important work**? The simple fact is, **almost no one** has a job or career that’s more important than raising kids.

    When you are a worker, you are replaceable. When you are a parent, you are NOT.

  • johngbarker

    What kind of family leave do the cooks at my favorite beer and burger joint get I wonder? While the people struggle to feed and clothe their kids, the clerisy continues to appropriate whatever is not nailed down.

    • Jim__L

      Government of the philosopher-kings, by the philosopher-kings, for the philosopher-kings, is what we’ve got.

      Their preferred euphemism is “technocracy”.

      Is it any wonder that whatever the ruling class is, they tend to slant government policies to benefit themselves at others’ expense?

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