Gary Becker, the Nobel laureate in Behavioral Economics describes family as a little factory in which husband and wife are specialized producers of complementary household goods; women equipped for rearing children, trade home production with men, who’ll specialize in bringing home the bacon from the labor market. Together they profitably provide communal goods and services---among which the most important are kids. The power of Becker’s economic formalism sheds light on an array of institutions governing the entanglement of men and women, tracing them to transactions in markets for mates and family goods.
The economic nature of the marriage bargain explains why most of the societies have codified protections to ensure wives’ access to resources. The raw Darwinian marketplace values women as wombs, selling reproductive services and house hold service in exchange for men’s seed and economic resources; men’s strategy is to maximize propagation and to ensure that women have the required resources to successfully carry their offspring. But then development is changing the terms of the transaction. Women emerge as producers in the market. It increases their value both in the household and in society at large.
Economic growth offers women new opportunities to produce outside the home and improve their bargaining status. Work offers women new careers. She gains freedom from drudgery of the seclusion of the household, and the chance to exercise her mind and talents ditto men do. Education, coupled with increasing demand for women in the labor force, is ultimately changing women’s expectations for good. As the number of women graduating is on increase, the most of the highly educated women work. For them, work has become the norm, irrespective of their earnings. It’s what they do, just like men. Technology, from the washing machines to the frozen dinner and the microwave oven etc has made it easier for women to seek opportunities outside the home.
The mass distribution of birth-control pill has made women to take control of their fertility, delay marriage and child birth, and focus on career and gain economic autonomy. The linch-pin of these changes however is work which has increased her leverage and implied her to push for gender equality in the workplace, the home, and beyond. The standard family deal, in which women exchanged the service of their uterus, child care, and house hold chores for their husband’s wage was rendered obsolete the moment women arrived home with a paycheck of their own. The balance of the workforce seemed to be tipping toward women.
Women dominate today’s colleges and professional schools. Several job categories are now mostly occupied by women. Indeed, the economy is in some ways becoming a kind of traveling sisterhood. Over the time the share of jobs held by males outside has declined as the share of jobs (reservation also) held by women rose. The increased unemployment in men thus has had a devastating effect on the marriage market. Having lost their edge in the financial contribution to the household many men are left with little to offer, and hence won’t marry…..the job-dynamics discourages building up of new (pro-creative) family units. The lopsided unemployment share favoring men has in the meanwhile resulted in the higher crime rates…creating hordes of frustrated and unmoored young men/women that prowl (promenade and nose around) the streets. It’s perhaps one of the major reasons why moral degradation in our society is on rise. Increased economic uncertainty in effect is likely to cause men (even women) to reach old age without heirs to care for them.
In our young upwardly mobile dual-career families partners are more similar, in age, education, and earning prospects. Rather than a kid factory it’s now more like a child club where husbands and wives pool the resources they earn from work to buy leisure and other goods like child care ---from the market. And if one spouse in a marriage has more education than the other, it’s likely to be the wife. As husbands and wives have become less dependent on each other to produce what the family unit needs, marriage, once meant to last until death is become a more diverse arrangement than it ever was.
The increased number of women working outside the home and the diminished potential of men to earn enough to be sole-providers is shaking the foundations of our society. The complex mosaic of traditional role and expectations for men and women fashioned and refined for thousands of years seems to be getting shattered. In our society it’s quite common to take for-granted that while men will naturally work outside home it’s acceptable for women to do this if and only if they could engage inasmuch work in addition to their inescapable- and unequally shared-household duties. This is sometimes called ‘division of labor’ though it may be more descriptive to see it as the accumulation of labor on women.
The role reversal that’s under way between men and women is turning traditional family roles upside down. ‘Who’s doing what?’…. ‘What’s our role?’…. ‘Everyone’s telling us we’re supposed to be the head of a nuclear family, so we feel like we got robbed’…. ‘It’s toxic, and poisonous, and it’s setting us up for failure’…. ‘This is her salary…….’ ‘This is your salary’….. ‘Who’s the damn man?’…. Who’s the man now?”….. A murmur rises. ‘That’s right. She’s the man.’ The range of acceptable masculine roles has changed comparatively little. As men seem “fixed-in-cultural-aspic”, with each passing day, they lag further behind. The economic and cultural power shift from men to women would be significant. Women are on to dominate middle management and a surprising number of professional careers as well.
The terms of marriage have changed radically…. families turn into matriarchies, with women making all the decisions and dictating what the men should and shouldn’t do…whether to have a baby…. how to raise it…. where to live… my-way-or-the-highway, kind of thing. Cultural norms, such that the fathers might have earlier said, ‘great.... catch-me-if-you-can’…… they’re desperate to ‘father’, but are pessimistic about whether they can meet her expectations. The Marlboro Man, meanwhile, master of wild beast and wild country, seems too far-fetched and preposterous even for advertising.