I’m not here to tell women what they should choose.

Gene Hoffman pointed me to this on the gender pay gap, where Heather Boushey “talks with economist Claudia Goldin about the gender wage gap and some of its implications.

It’s worth reading.

It, like most of the center-right writing on the gender pay gap, makes sense, it’s just woefully incomplete. Data is a starting point for analysis, not a replacement for it. However, I’ll admit that most center-right economic data on the gender pay gap is still more complete than most feminist thought on it, which is woefully devoid of data that might illuminate salient aspects of why women are paid less within the same jobs. What Goldin points out is that while in previous times level of education, choice of major, and years worked could explain the gap, that’s no longer the case.

Today what we see is that women in high-education, high-prestige jobs are taking big cuts in pay after having kids in exchange for flexibility and shorter hours.

This is true even in countries with generous benefits for mothers “and what we think of as social norms that are better.”

Okay so this is what I want to talk about. Even in countries with generous parental leave benefits and childcare help, women still choose to take the pay cuts and to shoulder most of the burden of childcare. Why? Maybe women just want to do this. Maybe they feel pressured to be the ones who take on that burden. It’s true that childbirth and breastfeeding are biological realities which incentivize women, and not men, to take a step back from careers after becoming parents. However, after the first or second year, why does this gap persist?

Today, women are earning more degrees than men. Childless women in cities outearn their male counterparts. Women seem to have the skills to best contribute to a market economy centered on information and services.

If you care about economic growth, if you care about ending scarcity, if you care about innovation, then it should concern you that women are taking their law degrees, medical degrees, STEM degrees, and instead of putting their main energy into creating a richer, freer world with more choices than ever, they’re taking care of children. Because there’s no good evidence that their kids are benefitted from having the mom step back as opposed to the dad. Or the nanny. 

I’m not here to tell women what they should choose. I am here to say I’m concerned that it looks like backwards gender norms seem to be robbing the economy of the vast potential contributions of half the population.

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