« Comment on Careers of Educated Women-BECKER | Main | Elite Universities and Women's Careers--Posner's Response to Comments »

09/25/2005

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Monica

JOHN WILLAIMS: You didn't read my post very carefully. I specifically asked why people like you, Jack Sprat, and Posner are only concerned with the women who are leaving the workforce prior to your arbitrary 10 consecutive years worth of contribution when there are also men who abandon the law (for example) for new careers. What appropriate measures should we use to screen out such men during the admission process?
To be obsessed with what some women do or do not do with the professional education and training that they earned and they paid for - is simply misogynistic. I'm curious for your comments on my point that people's individual life circumstances and career goals may change after the obtainment of thier professional education and therefore no system could accurately predict which individual woman or individual man will be in a particular profession for the long haul in the way you may desire.
Finally, in all my posts I am always challenging the general presumption that being in the workforce with no time out for family obligations while children are young as the only appropriate working model. Just because something has traditionally been that way does not mean it is effective. It also does not mean it cannot be changed. It is a system that is obviously not working very well for millions of American families. If by trying to suggest alternatives (other than Posner's punishing women for obtaining graduate degrees) and working on solutions to enhance both male and female participation in the professional world and at home is -in your words- "revamping all of society" - then so be it.
What's wrong with revamping the working culture of America? Today both genders switch career paths an average of seven times throughout their lives. Why should the focus only
be on women? I advocate family friendly policies because I believe they benefit men also. I believe that younger generations of both genders want and can benefit from a more fluid work model thoughout their lives that allows for more family/life participation. What is wrong with that?

Willie Fox

I do not think that it is misogynist or biased to ask whether child-rearing is societal utility maximizing use of an elite undergraduate or professional education and what should be the response of elite universities and professional and other graduate schools to a reported change in the ethos of women university from that prevailing in the 1970s when women were first admitted to previously all-male colleges and admitted on an equal basis to law and medical schools. For example (and purely as a hypothetical) if elite college or professional graduates, by virtue of increased time with their children after leaving active employment, should increase the likelihood that their children (rather than others from less privileged backgrounds) will be accepted at elite colleges that increase social stratification which is not optimal for American society -- any more than is social stratification due to inherited wealth (although there is currently some dispute about that, too).

Moreover, I think that the hyperbolic comments and responses show what an important issue this is.

I think that it's important for women to have the choice of sticking with professional or other "elite" employment or making money and allowing a house-husband to take care of children if he should be up to the task. But my preference is not a determinant of what maximizes social utility.

Shruti Ravikumar

Creating incentives for individuals to define themselves as parents or full-time professionals, as mothers or ÔøΩmore deserving applicantsÔøΩ prior to professional school is efficient only if we accept the binary that Ms. StoryÔøΩs article proposes and PosnerÔøΩs rebate system reinforces. Assuming that most policy-makers, political representatives, and business leadersÔøΩand many of their advisorsÔøΩare professionally educated; that a participant in both market and non-market activities is more likely to give appropriate consideration to both categories of activities in making decisions; and third, non-market activities (notably, parenting) are economically necessary for market activity to continue, wouldnÔøΩt we be economically worse-off if professional schools financially induced their graduates not to engage in non-market activity?

Daniel C

I am amazed at how shrill some of these posts are. While Judge Posner has thrown a bomb into the crowd to encourage discussion, I donÔøΩt understand the often nasty attacks on him.

Still, is Judge PosnerÔøΩs starting point correct? Do we have a labor market distortion that some professional schools may want to correct? Do highly educated women, who drop out of the workforce to care for children, use limited resources that could be put to better use? Then we do a series of tests: Who is harmed? How are they harmed? What actions can be taken?

Is society harmed? Judge Posner tells us that when these women drop out of the work force they deny society the value of their professional services. Professional services that others would have been happy to supply, if they had been given her slot in the school.

But is society suffering from this ÔøΩsub-optimalÔøΩ situation. If a shortage for these professional services exists, then wouldnÔøΩt society bid up the price to encourage these women to work more? The resources are there if the price rises, so let the market solve this service shortage if and when it shows itself.

Are men in the profession hurt? Perhaps not. If half of the women drop out of the workforce on a regular basis, reducing the amount of professional services for sale, wouldnÔøΩt that tend to put upward pressure on the income of the people still working in the profession, holding demand constant? (But not enough of an increase to encourage women to re-enter)

Could it be in the best interest of the male students to have these female drop outs in the profession as a means of keeping competition down and their salaries up. (Of course some professions that reach a tipping point of female participation seem to see a drop in incomes for the entire profession.)

Some people are hurt. The school slots that went to ÔøΩdropoutÔøΩ professionals did prevent ÔøΩhard workingÔøΩ candidates from entering. As a result, society may pay higher prices for these professional services, all else being equal. Of course, if you have too many ÔøΩhard workingÔøΩ professionals you might push wages lower and you create even more incentive for people to drop out for other pursuits like child rearing. I donÔøΩt know when the dog catches his tail in this story.

Are the professional schools harmed? I see no competitive advantage for a school to offer Judge PosnerÔøΩs solution. They will charge higher tuition then other schools, but if you work really hard for many years in the profession, we will send you a rebate check, that we hope you will return with interest. Of course recordkeeping would be fun, checking to make sure graduates are working full time for each year. (Would they need to show billable hours.)?

So who has an incentive to correct this labor market distortion? Female applicants who may want to raise children donÔøΩt want it changed. Males who are admitted donÔøΩt have much incentive to change the system. The schools that implement the Posner solution may place themselves at a competitive disadvantage for attracting students; unless this high tuition with rebates idea will be a selling point (I doubt it.) Potential ÔøΩhard workingÔøΩ candidates suffer but it is balanced with the gains to females (and their partners) who want to raise children.

Judge PosnerÔøΩs solution of shooting a mouse in the house with a shotgun is not one of his better ideas.

From a public policy perspective, I think the topic does touch on the problem of those who demand equality of results as a measure of true equality.

Jack Sprat

Anonymous (Jack Sprat?):Who says it favors men? It favors persons with a certain work ethic. The point is that you don't know how many women out there who posess such a work ethic aren't getting into elite universities because they are being edged out by the slightest of margins by women without it.

Me: Still, in any one group of women (law school applicants) a subgroup within that group of women is smaller; in this case those elite law school applicants who wish to work longer than 8 years is smaller than all women elite law school applicants.

That is static, Palooka. Once the policies change, the enrollment pool will change, too. It is true that under Policy 1 (no requirement that women work longer) the number of women in the pool who want to work longer is necessarily a subset of the whole pool, but that is not necessarily true under Policy 2 (with the requirement in effect). Under Policy 2, the women who don't want to work for as long as required drop out of the pool, and will be replaced by other women who meet the requirements of Policy 2. You are speculating that enrollment will not be constant because after the drop off, other women will not fill in the gap. I disagree with your speculation. I think, if anything, enrollment at elite universities will go up as applicants who applied to somewhat lesser law schools or b-schools decide that getting into an elite university is slightly easier.

John Williams

MONICA: What appropriate measures should we use to screen out such men during the admission process?

Make them marry women like you, Monica, and then they will stay at work all the time.

albatross

It seems to me that any solution to solve this problem is likely to be costlier than the problem. If we raise up-front tuition by enough to dissuade people who might drop out of the workforce from doing so, we're going to raise it so high we will have all kinds of other horrible distorting affects. (Do the present value calculation on what income a Harvard law graduate is likely giving up when she drops out of the workforce.)

Anything we do to discourage people from dropping out of the workforce creates still more distortions: people being unable to respond to the conditions of their lives without paying some horrible price. As an obvious example, imagine the career woman who plans to go back to school, but has a baby with Down's Syndrome. She very likely will need to drop out of the workforce to take care of her child. Making it financially painful for her to do so won't make the world a better place in any sense. (Yes, you could imagine elaborate rules for deciding when the person could drop out of the workforce and still get their rebates. Now we're down to micromanaging peoples' lives from afar. This never seems to go well when done by government employees, and I doubt it will work better with university employees.)

John Williams

MONICA: What's wrong with revamping the working culture of America?

Given that a feasible solution is simply to require admittees of elite professional schools to promise to work for the next 10 years in their profession, revamping our entire work culture is an inefficient solution. I'm not sure why you'd completely rebuild your house simply because you lost the key to the front door.

Try to win an election with that tax-and-spend crap. You'll lose. Every time.

Matthew

SHRUTI: wouldnÔøΩt we be economically worse-off if professional schools financially induced their graduates not to engage in non-market activity?

No one here has suggested that professional schools insist their graduates refrain from engaging in sexual intercourse.

Jack Sprat

In general, the idea that a free market is one in which individuals are not given a means to address wrongs committed against them is a novel one, to say the least.

Really? Because the First Amendment is supposed to protect the free marketplace of ideas, and if sexual harassment laws infringe on the First Amendment, then situations in which victims of sexual harassment unable to recover for a harasser's exercise of his speech rights would be examples of "a victim who cannot redress her wrongs in a free market." Not "novel" at all. Many people hold the view that the First Amendment bars federal sexual harassment laws.

Jack Sprat

As with any tort, the harassment itself impedes business, probably more than any measures taken to stop it. That's why the measures are taken.

That's nonsense. It is quite often the case that "blackmail suits" are settled simply because of bad press. In those cases, there may not have even been an actionable wrong; but the "wrongdoer" knows that paying up front is cheaper than litigating itself to victory and vindication. Likewise, overprotective measures taken within the company -- to the extent they prevent the assertion of false claims -- save money, but that doesn't mean that the measures are effective at preventing harassment, or taken for that purpose. They're taken to save money from false claims, which, in turn, do not arise if the measures are taken (because they are false), so the savings never actually materialize (shareholders never see it). That's why it's just -- in effect -- a cost. It's blackmail insurance, and it is a barrier to entry for the marginal firm.

Jack Sprat

MONICA: And the next time you start spouting off your "free market" talking points you might want to actually dust off a little research about our own stagnant economy and Europe's actual ecomonic growth.

I would suggest that you read the newspaper, or an economics journal on the EU. American growth outpaces that of France and Germany, and the growth of Eastern European nations with flat-tax schemes outpaces that of Western Europe. There is an internal debate within the European Economic Community involving France and Germany's ability to rig the European Central Bank to ignore its deficit-spending, which is dragging down the regional economy. Why? Because France and Germany have huge entitlement systems, much like you insist we adopt in the United States. They cut into growth. They also cause resentment amongst younger voters, who do not believe that those entitlements will be solvent (in part because of the low birth-rate) when it is their turn. Gerard Shroeder, in fact, LOST his recent election in part because of the massive entitlements that his coalition has, until now, seemed unwilling to cut. So, they aren't just my "free market" talking points; they were Andrea Merkel's talking points, too. And she beat Gerard Shroeder.

If anyone is ignorant of the realities here, it is you. You're blinded by your love for Marxist fairy-tales, Monica.

John Williams

ALBATROSS: Now we're down to micromanaging peoples' lives from afar. This never seems to go well when done by government employees, and I doubt it will work better with university employees.

If that is the case, then why would we command government to completely revamp our work culture, which would require much more micromanagement? We wouldn't, because that would be irrational.

Erica

I know certain posters have alluded to what I am going to say, but let me address it directly. In spite of my vast respect for Judge Posner, this is not an economics problem; it is a social problem. As such, it deserves a social response. Attempting to evaluate the issue within the parameters that Judge Posner suggests is to propagate the institutional histories and structures that are at the root of the problem.
Moreover, I think that the problem may very well grow to being not simply a women's issue, but a generational issue. I think there will be a general trend away from working the type of hours that have been traditionally required of professionals given the lessons that we have learned from watching our miserable parents. With respect to the specific issues of women in this regard, I have to believe that the traditional feminist viewpoint (at least as it has been embraced in my experience) that women should be treated the SAME as men does not serve women, who are, indeed, DIFFERENT from men. I, as a professional woman and a mother, desire social and institutional structures that recognize this distinction and do not penalize me for it. If I can work humane hours and do interesting work, I will stay in the workforce. The interesting problem from an economics standpoint is the effect of this type of drain of talented women from the workforce because of inflexible institutions organized around male values. We shouldn't be considering instead how to keep women out of the pool altogether by making it more costly to pursue an education.

Corey

So no one else has a problem with raising tuition to better compel people to work 10 years on the grounds that it resembles indentured servitude?

Student Loans are not dischargable, if you raise tuition high enough it locks people into careers, which is exactly what Posner proposes to do.

Maybe the real question isn't, "is ____ sexist?" but rather "why are we so willing to perfect wage slavery for reasons of economic efficiency?" If, as I believe, the motivation is sexist and the "cover" or justification is utilitarian... why is it assumed to be such an effective cover?
Does hearing that the result is efficient really end the moral inquiry for people who support this plan?

Incidentally, higher tuition also has a negative effect on class mobility. Potential students from lower income backgrounds are less likely to believe that they can afford to pay, and are less likely to get up front financing. Posner's proposal would also discriminate against the poor of both genders in practice, and to the extent that poverty is correlated to race, against minority applicants.

Corey

Erica, I am in general agreement with you and can identify with your view on the role of work in our lives.

Which poses one problem to your analysis given that I am a man. Several others who are criticizing the proposal are also men. Perhaps men aren't DIFFERENT in a hard, all caps sort of way, but are socialized to be slower on average to spot the harms in slavish devotion to efficiency.

Perhaps you have read Carol Gilligan's "In a Different Voice," and would recall that she concluded that the highest level of moral development was actually a synthesis of the "female" ethic of care and the "male" ethic of justice.

If so then there are things that men and women can learn from each other in common struggle against inflexible application of utilitarian calculus by men who have yet to escape their chronic undervaluation of caring and social relations.

Anyway, I am happy to see feminists and more women in general posting here. I hope they will continue to see this as a good site for oppositional prose.

Chris Willis

I wonder what the econonomic impact is of all the people who "drop out" of their jobs to read and argue blog postings all day, and whether more men than women are wasting their educations in doing so?

Jack Sprat

ERICA: The interesting problem from an economics standpoint is the effect of this type of drain of talented women from the workforce because of inflexible institutions organized around male values. We shouldn't be considering instead how to keep women out of the pool altogether by making it more costly to pursue an education.

And this is the sad problem with people on Corey's side of the issue. No one is discussing "keeping women out of the pool altogether". We're discussing kicking out women like Erica and Monica in favor of just as qualified (if not more qualified) women who want to work harder than they do. That is not a "drain," it's called an incentive. The women being "punished" are LAZY. And the writings of Carol Gilligan, while intriguing, are wholly irrelevant to this issue, Corey. Stop using this forum as a Male-Feminist Matchmaking Service and bending over backwards to kiss the arses of the women who post here. You might try respecting them as equals, Corey, by responding to the substance (or lack thereof) in their posts, instead of treating them like attention-starved children and offering sycophantic and false praise. That won't make them want to have your babies, Corey.

CHRIS WILLIS' BOSS

CHRIS WILLIS: I wonder what the econonomic impact is of all the people who "drop out" of their jobs to read and argue blog postings all day, and whether more men than women are wasting their educations in doing so?

You should know, Chris, because YOU'RE FIRED.

Jack Sprat

By the way, N.E. Hatfield, I have no problem with your two suggestions: particularly the the stipulation signed upon enrollment. Limiting the number of applicants to 2 per State doesn't seem to be enough students to meet market demand, and it wouldn't apply to private schools without a law. But objective public testing sounds good.

Mwebb

Prof Becker:

In reading your post, the question that struck me was why women who will not have long careers would spend >$150,000 on an Ivy League education. This seems like rather a waste of money, as you suggest in the post. Obviously, one possibility is that they are making consistent and systematic errors (i.e. think they will have long careers but then don't). However, it seems problematic to base a theory on the assumption of people making consistent mistakes. Its even more difficult to make this assertion when a singifcant fraction of the women today are saying they do not intend to stay in the work force (or at least a signifcant fraction of them say this). Obviously this gets back to the question of why women are spending the money when future income does not seem to justify it.

I would suggest that you allude to the answer in your post, but do not fully explore it. You note that assortive mating may explain why women graduating from elite insitutions do not work (they marry men with high earning potential). HOwever, might this not explain the puzzle. Women go to these elite (and expensive) institutions because its the most efficient way to meet someone of their socioeconomic/intellectual calibre. If tihs is true, doesn't it have the further implication that it is not inefficient.

For example, imagine we took the extreme position of banning women from elite instituions. Wouldn't this imply that either people would not marry like-to-like (implying enormous gains to trade) or that the "market" would have to develop some other way to like to signal like. Either of these possibilites seem likely to be very costly. In short, is there really inefficiency even if most women at elite institutions choose not to have long careers. If there is not inefficiency why should we worry about it?

Palooka

"That is static, Palooka. Once the policies change, the enrollment pool will change, too. It is true that under Policy 1 (no requirement that women work longer) the number of women in the pool who want to work longer is necessarily a subset of the whole pool, but that is not necessarily true under Policy 2 (with the requirement in effect). Under Policy 2, the women who don't want to work for as long as required drop out of the pool, and will be replaced by other women who meet the requirements of Policy 2. You are speculating that enrollment will not be constant because after the drop off, other women will not fill in the gap. I disagree with your speculation. I think, if anything, enrollment at elite universities will go up as applicants who applied to somewhat lesser law schools or b-schools decide that getting into an elite university is slightly easier."

If one is willing to lower standards, then one can always fill the class with a proportionate amount of women. However, even you concede most of these new applicants would be people who fomerly could not get into an elite law school (as you speculuate they will come from business chools applicants and lower law schools). That means the more competitive females are replaced with less competitive ones, which results in fewer women being admitted because the female applicant pool is less competitive than before (unless compensatory admission criteria is added as well).

I agree that there is a possibility, albeit slim and highly speculative, that comparatively qualified women will fill the spaces of those leaving the applicant pool. This seems to me unlikely, as those highly qualified applicants who wish to seek a career in the law are already applying. There may be a few highly qualified individuals who decide to attend law school because of the new criteria. But it is highly unlikely that their numbers would equal or exceed those deciding not to attend law school because of the new policy.

David

ERICA: "The interesting problem from an economics standpoint is the effect of this type of drain of talented women from the workforce because of inflexible institutions organized around male values. We shouldn't be considering instead how to keep women out of the pool altogether by making it more costly to pursue an education."

I agree, with one caveat. I do not think that inflexible institutions demanding crazy hours are a "male value." I think that it is a mixture of capitalism and greed run amuck. Employers want to squeeze as much work as possible out of employees, and the employees, at least when they happen to be "professionals," rarely object, because they think that the long hours will bring them higher salaries and quick advancement. What they do not realize is that the lost utility (having no life outside of work, never getting to see kids, etc.) rarely justifies the marginal increase in salary that the lifestyle brings.

We instituted a mandatory 40-hour work week for "blue collar" workers long ago, and encouraged the formation of unions, to get rid of sweatshops. It worked, and now the average unskilled worker lives a much better life than his counterparts did 100 years ago. "Professionals" are now the only employees who are expected to work unlimited hours. This arrangement does not serve the overall interests of the average professional, but I see no indication that society will debunk the myth that it does.

albatross

Crystal,

I think you're onto something: In both cases, we have two different goals:

a. Being individually fair in admissions decisions, which means taking the people who are the most objectively qualified.

b. Tweaking our admissions to accomplish some other goal--more professionals from the school actually working a full careef, or more minority professionals.

In both cases, there's also substantial dispute about whether the programs as proposed/implemented do more good than harm.

Corey

"And this is the sad problem with people on Corey's side of the issue. No one is discussing "keeping women out of the pool altogether".

Posner is, why don't you use the little scroll button on the side of your browser, go back to Posner's post, and see who he thinks will "usually" take the place of women... hmmm.

Now re-read the last line of his post. I will make it really easy for you:

"Were admission to such schools based on a prediction of the social value of the education offered, fewer women would be admitted."

Did you feel you responded to the substance of Erica's post my calling her lazy Jack? Or did you hope to discourage her and Monica from posting further?

The comments to this entry are closed.

Become a Fan

May 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31