Friday, May 23, 2014
The Mommy Tax and the Daddy Bonus
The U.S. Census Bureau collects vast amounts of data every 10 years. Once released, this trove is data-mined to develop information released in reports over subsequent years.
One of the latest ones comes from the City University of New York. Its title, "The 'Mommy Tax' and the 'Daddy Bonus'" reported a conclusion that confused researchers: Men in New York with children make more money than women with children and more than childless women and childless men.
Women, on the other hand, faced a penalty for being mothers. Across all races and education levels, women's income was lowered with each child born into their families.
CUNY's social psychologists were gobsmacked. How could this possibly be, they wondered.
Their immediate conjecture was that it was the fault of employers who assumed that men with children were more warm and positive.
The conclusion seemed to be that if you gave an underachieving guy a couple of kids, his income would skyrocket immediately.
This of course is ridiculous. It makes a common scientific error, which is to confuse correlation with causation.
I am pretty sure I could have saved these researchers a lot of time and money.
Here is why male fathers make more money: Women.
Women, at least the sensible ones, are careful about the fathers of their babies. Women favor dependable men of good character who will be supportive in the joint project of raising children.
Likewise, employers look for dependable people of good character who work well with colleagues to achieve common goals. Such people are more likely to get promotions and bumps in pay.
(Some skeptics say say that women seek to marry men who make lots of money. We all have known women who have married for money and men who have married for beauty, and we also have seen those marriages fail at greater than average rates. Good character is really, really important.)
As for the "mommy tax," well there are the facts of nature. Pregnancy, breast-feeding through the early months when babies wake at all hours of the night and post-partum depression all fall to women and cannot be outsourced even to the most committed fathers.
Accordingly, parents who are doing it right set a simple goal -- "what is best for all of us."
Often the higher earner concentrates on career while the lower earner works part-time or not at all when children are young. It is more traditional for men to take the job of bringing in the money (which may motivate them to excel at work in the interest of earning more), but I have seen families where the mothers take the larger financial responsibility and the fathers manage the home duties. It works fine either way as long as the parents agree on the goals.
Again, raising children is the most important thing a couple can do, and children whose lives go well are essential for parental contentment in later years. The old saying is true: You are only as happy as your unhappiest child.
Why do I have to explain these things?