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Tom -- fair enough. the tone of my most recent post was unreasonable and you did not make up this issue, although I think the comments have expanded it to "all professionals" whereas Posner presented it as a gender issue.

But all of my objections stand. I don't think there is much to be gained from your proposals. To the extent that this is an interesting problem, it is interesting because of the gender implications. The professional setting seems like one particularly good example where a free market works -- discounting the initial problem of access into the market. There isn't any labor shortage. If someone from one of the top schools leaves the market, there is an equally qualified candidate from another school to take his or her place. If the replacement actually enjoy the profession, that person is probably more qualified, and at that point in the career, where he or she went to professional school is of secondary importance.

I'm not sure what to say about the issue as Posner presented it. On the one hand, it would be a real problem if the number of women entering top professional schools and then leaving the profession created some sort of market shortage, but it hasn't. If the rate of departure from the profession were higher at the top schools than at other schools, it might eventually create a levelling effect, whereby the lesser schools' endowments slowly crept up to the level of the top schools'. But that isn't likely to happen -- the stratifications in endowments has only increased in recent years.

It wouldn't do for a school to limit the number of female slots up front to try to counter this issue, or to try to figure out which applicants will leave the profession early to run families. A school could try to gain a slight advantage through the policy that Posner suggests -- it might increase its endowment over time. But it could also create a big public relations backlash if the effect was to keep women out of the classes -- which seems to be the desired effect.

So I guess, yes, I don't see much wrong with the current system, and I don't think there's much valuable to say in this thread.

Maggie Gallagher

Not to interrupt all this great experimental thinking about innovative ways to discourage elite women from having children (by penalizing them for spending time with them) but a technical sidenote: I think the average sex ratio of undergraduates at elite institutions is closer to 60-40 percent female, rather than the 50-50 ratio Posner suggests. (That is, if Iím correctly recalling the research we did in examining sex ratios as an explanation for courtship behavior, or lack thereof, on college campuses--subsequently published as ìHanging Out Hooking Up Looking for Mr Rightî (NY: Institute for American Values)). The only exceptions to female-dominated campuses were certain elite technical and math schools (MIT, Cal Tech etc) and for reasons that perhaps Richard Posner can explain, the University of Chicago.

Linda Hirshman

Dear Dick,
I suggested the tuition rebate plan in my book proposal, "Housewives from Harvard," three years ago and on Sixty Minutes last fall (the latter earning me a coveted #77 on Bernard Goldberg's screwup list). The idea occurred to me then, because, when I looked into the lives of the women who announced their weddings in the selective Styles section of the New York Times in 1996, I found them all at home with their babies, advanced degreees and all, and I see no reason that society should subsidize this delusional and unproductive variant of finishing school. Now I read in your blog that professional education is not subsidized. Surely that cannot be right. Why do they keep hounding me for donations? Are all the donations to, say, the University of Chicago Law School not tax deductible? And do the rest of us taxpayers not therefore make up the difference in the cost of running the government caused by the diversion of money from the fisc into the coffers of the law school in order to subsidize legal education there?
And surely tuition doesn't cover the cost of legal education at state schools, does it?
btw, readers, lose the community service move. These women only work at their childrens' schools. Darwin lives.


Not to sound like a broken record, but you are all completely missing the point of the NYT article. Nothing in the article suggested that professional schools are suffering financially from the fact that some female graduates choose to take a few years off to spend time with their kids. The article does not suggest that schools are in danger of losing needed funds, or that the stay-at-home grads stop contributing, or that schools would consider admitting fewer women (or charging them higher tuition) to compensate.

Rather, the article is concerned that the "best and brightest" women, by choice, are not advancing as far in their careers as perhaps they could, and it asks what this trend means, from a feminist perspective.

Specifically, the article states that women are concluding that it is "unrealistic" to have both a career and a family, at least while the children are young. To me, this raises the issue of whether the legal profession should better accommodate families with more flexible hours and expectations, perhaps in exchange for lower pay. Many corporations and government agencies have made it possible for parents (men and women) to have both a career and a family. In fact, the traditional corporate icon was the "family man." Why, now, do law firms in particular demand such sacrifice from employees that they must choose between work and a personal life? This issue should be in the forefront, not some absurd economic calculation about how many women professional schools "should" admit.


I do not care about the law schools one way or the other. But I do not want my tax dollars going to pay for Hurricane Katrina, because some millionaire gave money to the U of C Law School to turn out these princesses and is deducting it. As far as I'm concerned that's no different than the wasteful scandals at the United Way or any other tax subsidized charity.
If the society continues to subsidize these girls' delusion that they are equal to men because they spend three years in torts class and all before they return to the June Cleaver role, they will never be motivated to stay and fight for the changes you describe.
Anyway, if you read the article closely, you see it's not about big bad law firms with killer hours. They say almost nothing about knowing they cannot keep a career on track with careful nurturing for a few years, and most of the firms I know have provisions for such arrangements already. They are talking about staying home until the two or three kids are in school or even gone to college. I wasn't the best student at the law school, but I can add, and that is a minimum of eight or nine years out of the work place. There is nothing firms can do that will keep these women, who have a lethal combination of impenetrable narcissism, perfect madness mothering, and husbands for whom they are a Darwinian advantage, at work.


I'd like to know what everyone thinks about the gender gap in top coporate jobs viz. this discussion.


At Harvard Law School, I was a minority: I belonged to the "public interest" community--students who are interested in taking jobs in the non-profit sector rather than the big firms where most of their classmates end up. There were very few men in this community. Women seem much more likely than men to pursue work in the public interest, whether it be because they are more compassionate or because the non-profit sector is more family friendly. Regardless, we need more ivy-league educated lawyers to dedicate themselves to public service. If the men are more likely to take the corporate jobs, where supply surely exceeds demand, and the women are more likely to take the public interest jobs, where demand likely exceeds supply, shouldn't that count for something?

Bob. K

I don't think that the ratio incoming class/applications less than one implies that demand exceeds supply. If I date two or more girls at the same time doesn't mean there are more girls than guys in the dating market or that I am in great demand. Everybody dates as many people as possible before marrying. And everybody applies to several places before choosing a school.

And, anyone who wants to study medicine law or management can do it, whether or not they can get a spot on Harvard that's another question.

I think what's happening to girls is that they are realizing that the corporate career path is not that great: outsourcing, less job security, smaller salaries per hour, having to pay huge educational debts, mortgages and so on.

They get a much better quality of life for a lot less work if they marry a rich guy or at least someone who makes 300K plus. Divorce laws are quite biased in the wife's favor, so girls get more from marriage than guys. There's no point in becoming corporate slaves if they have another much better option.

Whether or not they can find a rich guy, that's another issue.

These days the payoff of a professional degree is becoming more and more like a lottery ticket, if you don't become a CEO, law firm partner, MD at an investment bank or a highly paid surgeon, then you will likely live paycheck to paycheck the rest of your life. In any case you will have little personal or family time when you enter such careers.

So increasing tuition to replace girls with highly paid guys will not work, because the supply of highly paid jobs is determined outside the educational system and it will not increase; it is decreasing, instead. So smart girls will be replaced by mediocre guys who might become unemployed or working outside their fields anyway. Higher tuitions will not increase efficiency, it will just redistribute income from alumni to universities.

Thinking in general equilibrium terms is becoming out of fashion, unfortunately.


All of this seems to be a twist on the value of public education vs. a private education or the Commons vs. the Lords Spiritual& Temporal. A quick test, who said this, "You can send them to the Ivy League or you can send them to the Service Acadamies, but the fact still remains, a muttonhead is a muttonhead." ;)


I believe some of these comments were made by other posters in some form or another, but I'd like to raise them again: raising tuitions and offering rebates for a "productive" legal career would have the primary effect of discouraging lower- and middle-class applicants from becoming lawyers. The societal effects of that trend are far more scary than any "danger" to law schools posed by alleged decreases in donations.

First, last I checked, none of the elite law schools is hurting in the donations department.

Second, increasing the already astonishing amount of debt required for most of us (myself included) to become a practicing lawyer will further drive the profession toward being populated by those with great family wealth - i.e. those with right-leaning political and social sensibilities.

Third, it's unclear to me that any change in the overall productivity of lawyers as a result of decreased participation by women is even demonstrable. Look at the revenues of major law firms. Look at profits per partner. Look at trends in billable hours. Look at the overall amount of legal work generated and billed in recent years. How can anyone claim that productivity is down, when it appears to be skyrocketing on all fronts?

Fourth, several of Judge Posner's general assumptions are troubling: that lawyers of any stripe (even the "innovative") actually produce net benefits to society in excess of their pay, that the productivity of a lawyer (or anyone) is measured primarily in revenues they generate or income they produce for themselves, that a "working career" as a lawyer somehow indicates an ability to repay law school debt (even before his increase)... And what of all the transaction costs imposed by lawyers on the economy? Has anyone done this calculation: the risks offset by lawyering in corporate transactions versus the amount of fees generated by that lawyering? What is the cost of "overlawyering"?


"But I do not want my tax dollars going to pay for Hurricane Katrina, because some millionaire gave money to the U of C Law School to turn out these princesses and is deducting it."

Can anyone tell me what this sentence means?

Neerav Kingsland

Dear Judge Posner,

In calculating the benefits and costs of your prosposal, I believe that you did not calculate the political and emotional outrage that such a proposal would provoke from many people, especially women. This is not to say that your proposal is mean spirited or sexist. However, given that the proposal will impact the attendence rates of women much more than it will impact the rates of men, many people will view the proposal as "turning back the clock" on women's rights.

Given our country's history of great prejudice against women, I believe that one has to be sensitive to such a reaction. Moreover, because women are socialized to rear children and men are socialized to be breadwinners, it is slighlty troublesome that under your proposal women would be socialized out of an opportunity to attend elite institutions. Of course, women can choose to defy social norms, but this is not easy to do.

In short, what is gained by your proposal is most likely offset by the harm it would do to gender relations.


Neerav Kingsland

Dan C

Using the term "maximum possible value" for your education is a bit too vague - certainly too vague to be used as a basis for radical changes in the education system.

Next, even women who leave the workplace after a few years can establish a network of professional connections. Those professional connections can be of great value to her children, perhaps greater then any designer jean degree the children may one day earn.

She then ships her child to an elite school where her connections help another generation get connected to a large network. Adding value to the school and her family.

How do you calculate the value of these networks for the family unit? The revealed preference is that they must have great value.


The following issues exist in Judge Posner's article.
Measuring demand versus supply by examining applications versus acceptances is faulty and misperceives the application process. Because of the subjectivity of the application process, smart applicants to elite law schools apply to multiple law schools (anecdotally, approximately 4-6, and as many as 15). There is also a vanity-oriented approach to applying to schools to which an applicant is not at all qualified on the "off chance" that he or she may get in anyway, which improperly inflates the applicant pool. Acceptance rates -- if properly adjusted for the multiplicity of applications and the demonstrably unqualified applicants -- may not reflect any "excess" demand, making an increase in price an improper solution to a nonexistent problem.
Also, measuring a "productive" career as being one that remains within the confines of the profession of the school at which the applicant studied ignores two important factors. First, one should consider the fluidity with which many graduate degrees, particularly law degrees, may be used for other endeavors that are nonetheless economically productive, sometimes at a compensation rate higher than that of a lawyer at a law firm (i.e., an investment banker), sometimes at a lower rate (i.e., an unsuccessful screenwriter of legally-oriented television shows). Those graduates still work, but they are not in the "profession" and are therefore deemed less "productive" and unworthy. Second, even those legal positions that are a drain on the economy, being funded by taxpayer resources (say, being an employee of the federal government as a member of the appellate judiciary) may be socially productive in an important and meaningful way despite being less highly compensated than the similar vintage of a private law firm attorney. Measuring productivity as the amount of money earned in the private practice of law ignores the variations on the economically productive uses of a law degree and the economically unproductive -- but unquestionably necessary -- uses of a law degree within the practice of law. This this estimate appears impractical. From a results perspective, using Judge Posner's estimate of productivity to set the price of legal study would further widen the holes in important parts of the profession from elite schools (those being pro bono and government service, despite the financial aid options already available) and shift the composition of the law school classes not from a mix of genders to more men but from a mix of economic backgrounds to more wealthy people. The gender mix may be muted, but it would still be disproportionate from Judge Posner's perspective for all of the reasons women currently apply to law school.
The idea that law schools are not contributing their maximum economic productivity to the legal profession by providing a number of women who will drop out demonstrates a lack of practical familiarity with the economic model of the large law firms that absorb the overwhelming majority of the graduates of the elite law schools, male and female. Large law firms operate on one important principle -- leverage. Partners are few, associates are many, and this "pyramid" structure depends on attrition over the years to perpetuate itself. To state the obvious, there are fewer women at the partner ranks of the "AmLaw 100" law firms than there are at the associate ranks, by a significant percentage. As each class progresses towards partnership, the firm depends on more and more associates choosing other paths -- government service, pro bono (once the law school loans are paid off), smaller, so-called "lifestyle" firms, career options outside of the law and, yes, motherhood. To provide the large law firms with a large number of employees who will work their tails off while they are untethered by family commitments, never seek accommodations for their families once they veer onto the "mommy track" (unlike the men who abandon young associates to tuck in their kids and then "work from home"), and, most importantly, never threaten a try for the partnership is an economic boon on which the large law firms have come to depend, especially after the merger mania in the late 90s and the jump in 1999 to the $125K standard-NY-firm starting salary, both of which further pushed the firms to leverage their teeming hordes of associates. Admitting more men in the long term would result in more unemployed 8th year associate men as the partnerships would continue to be unable to assimilate those "surplus" associates -- who need to work to provide the sole or dominant income for their families -- into the ranks of the partnerships. The admission of women in large number to law schools satisfies the demand for many entry-level associates while allowing for their attrition and the market to tighten in symmetry with the pyramid structure of the large law firm economic model.
Lastly, the rebate idea is simply silly. I enjoyed my experience at U of C, but my intention of giving any donation to the law school is determined less by my earning power and potential and more by my frustration with its faculty.


This is, by far, the worst idea posted on this blog so far. All this would do is discourage less risk averse students from attending college. The motivation is also deeply troubling: this is social engineering with market mechanisms.

Btw: is there any evidence for an undersupply of well-educated men in the labor market? Simply pointing to the high demand for education isn't the same.


I find it very interesing that Posner never seems to question why these elite women were dropping out of the workforce in the first place. It is often because these women overestimated how much the professional world had evolved since women entered the workforce en mass (which is sad to say not that much). Could the skills and talents of 50% of some graduate school classes be so worthless that we are not all debating how we can keep these valuable women in the workforce instead of throwing up our hands in the matter?
The loss of these women from these professions is exactly that -a loss. Could Poser really be so stupid as to not realize that some of these women are dropping out because they find most professions are still absolutely incompatible with and some outright hostile to employees who are also raising young children? Such attitudes are mostly due to inflexible work arrangements, and a professional culture that still treats child rearing as some sort of silent hobby that one should never actually discuss or need to work around.
Even though today's generation of men helps with child rearing more than previous generations, it is still only a minimal amount. Whether a woman is a professional or not, in the year 2005 she still does 90% of the child care for most individual families. How about actually treating employees who also happen to be mothers (or parents) by taking this into consideration in a sincere way?
After so many years of struggling, or fighting with the lack of adequate, quality child care many women simply throw in the towel. A better solution would be to examine how we could re-invent the workplace to keep these high achieving women in it. What additional incentives could we offer (like more on-site child care)?
Could the "family-friendly" policies that some firms already offer be utilized more effectively without fear of retribution or loss or advancement opportunity? Could someone really take a few years off to raise a young child to pre-school age and then return? Most western industrialized countries have far more extensive family/work balance programs and generous child care arrangements that the pathetic assortment in the U.S.
By re-examine the working world entirely and make it more compatible for members of both genders who want to work and utilize the skills they worked so hard to obtain in their professional education and yet maintain a
part-time or flexible arrangement. There is absolutely no reason why most professions cannot reconfigure themselves along this line- it is only out of an outdated stubborn (male) tradition that they do not. To suggest that new models of work for most professions cannot be implemented displays a lack of rigorous intellect and imagination (and I would argue that Mr. Posner lacks both). Most women want what men have always had - rewarding professional work and a family life and the current work enviornment have all been created with only a male (and one without child care oblications)in mind. To say that these women are "choosing" to waste their professional education is false and insulting. The professional world hasn't figured out how to re-structure itself to fit this new work paradim for all working parents. Posner should talk to some of the Men of Generation X and Y. Many of them feel more pressure and desire to deviate from the traditional career models too, and both genders could benefit tremendously from professions that help them accommodate family obligations. Instead of discouraging applicants to eilite schools who do not work full time with higher tuition -Why not make it easier for both genders to work part-time without having that be career suicide? Posner's so-called "solutions" are nothing more than a reward for the very ineffective and outdated labor model that is the main cause for women dropping out of the work force in the first place - not biologic destiny. So nice try Posner - now go back to the drawing board.

Bernard Yomtov

while successful lawyers and businessmen command high incomes, those incomes often fall short of the contribution to economic welfare that such professionals make. This is clearest when the lawyer or businessman is an innovator, because producers of intellectual property are rarely able to appropriate the entire social gain from their production. Yet even noninnovative lawyers and businessmen, if successful--perhaps by virtue of the education they received at a top-flight professional school--do not capture their full social product in their income,

But the whole argument rests on the presumption that the professional education is the source of this positive externality, that the individual would not have produced this gain without the professional education. I find that dubious.

An intelligent, hard-working, and creative individual may well make these sorts of contributions as a lawyer, but might also make equivalent contributions as an engineer or businessman. In other words, it may well be the case that the professional education is not really the basis for the contribution, and therefore none of this value should be credited to it.

I am unwilling to accept the underlying assumption without any support whatsoever.


"An addendum to my prior post -- I utterly, and I do mean UTTERLY, reject the notion that women, as a class are victims, and need to be treated differentially."

How nice that you are willing to extend the personal experience of not needing to be treated differently over 3 Billion of your fellow humans. Would you care to discuss the class, race, and cultural entitlements that contributed to your success in life? Perhaps you believe you simply worked hard.


None of you get to tell any woman, (or man for that matter) what they can or cannot do with their education. There are fundamental liberty interests at stake. Unless you are a loan officer at Sallie Mae you do not have a legally recognizable interest in career productivity.

Back when the topic was Affirmative Action the concern about higher education was all "meritocracy" and "standardized tests." (Which has the effect of disadvantaging many African Americans in admissions.) Now that the topic is gender, the same people are worried about the use and productivity to which the degrees are put. (Which, as a test, would have the effect of disadvantaging many Women in admissions.)

I declare the subtext of both concerns to be a bias/preference towards white males in elite universities.

Luc Vau tou

Do nothing.

There are already too many lawyers.
Too many of every profession.

We need more women in Universities.


Jack Sprat

MONICA: The professional world hasn't figured out how to re-structure itself to fit this new work paradim for all working parents.

First of all, 'paradim' is not a word. The word is "paradigm." Secondly, the professional world always adapts to social paradigm shifts. It does so cautiously and with the preservation of its own interests in mind. Changes have set in; and those changes have permitted 'working parents' to commit to even more onerous schedules! Thirdly, I would note here that "all working parents" do not have an inalienable right to a professional job. We do not live in a Marxist utopia. Good thing! I like my freedom of speech and my individualized iPod. Lastly, it is a sad presumption of many ideological movements that their impact on the world will be positive in precisely the way intended. Feminism aimed to improve the lot of women, and succeeded in a great many ways. Unfortunately, by granting women equal access to the workplace, feminism also granted women equal access to work 18 hour days slaving away for The Man! The real question is why feminists ever thought slaving all day at a corporate prison would be a victory for liberty and freedom! To continue on that point, I certainly like my profession, but many people would hate it. Why are you assuming, Monica, that most American women want to be professionals their entire lives? The entire reason Posner posted his post is that studies indicate the opposite: American women with advanced degrees from elite universities, in significant numbers, are working for a few years at highly prized professional occupations and then opting out of their careers to raise children in a traditional manner. The question is not one of equal access to universities or to the workplace (which is implicitly extant if women can make such choices); the question properly framed is whether this behavior benefits society at-large.

No one (sane) is presuming that disincentivizing women who plan to work for less than 5 years in their chosen profession would obstruct other women from taking their places. Indeed, there would be no problem if all the qualified women at elite universities who planned to work less than 5 years were replaced with qualified women who planned to work more than 8 years after graduation. Posner's argument in no way promotes the exclusive interests of white males. To read it as such is to succumb to irrationality and bias.

John Williams

If the men are more likely to take the corporate jobs, where supply surely exceeds demand, and the women are more likely to take the public interest jobs, where demand likely exceeds supply, shouldn't that count for something?

It does. Public interest lawyers pay less for school. Their loans are reduced. And saying you want to do public interest makes it easier to get into law school. You can also get a stipend for public interest summer jobs.

Here's the thing. Women who go to law school and quit being lawyers after a mere few years get corporate jobs, because that's how they finance their super-early retirement and attract a super-rich mate to finance their child-raising. So even women are rejcting public interest in mass numbers. That percentage of public interest lawyers is majority female perhaps says something about ideology. I'm sure that the percentage of conservative law professors who represent public interest groups in amicus briefs to the federal courts is overwhelmingly male. But, those guys aren't poor, and they weren't hanging out at the Rape Crisis Center in law school.

Josh Doherty

I have not read all the comments, so forgive me if this has been addressed.

If we accept that there exists a market for diversity in corporatations which demands women and minorities, can we expect that a reduced supply of women will drive up the wage of the reamaining women. Of course, the impact of substitutes (males) will create an upper bound on the wage (apart from the marginal revenue product of labor).

Therefore, can we say that the propensity for women to exit the labor market creates a positive wgae benefit for those that remain in the market? Can we furhter state that this acounts for some of the convergence between male and female salaries?


J Williams "because that's how they finance their super-early retirement and attract a super-rich mate to finance their child-raising."

Is that really the level at which we are viewing the women alluded to in the article?

Posner: "raise tuition to all students but couple the raise with a program of rebates for graduates who work full time...The real significance of the plan would be the higher tuition, which would discourage applicants who were not planning to have full working careers"

(a) How is this not covered by college loan programs? If you don't work and can't pay off your loans, your loans will pile up with interest, giving a pretty strong incentive to work. If you don't work and *can* pay off your loans (or didn't need to take loans) then you probably are beyond the point where you'll be taking token penalties into consideration.

(b) If we are concerned about a "finishing school" model taking over at elite professional schools, where women stalk rich, or soon-to-be rich, men to "to finance their child-raising" shouldn't we lower tuition radically? This will flood the school with applicates who are qualified but discouraged from applying because of entry cost, and the presumption that the class entering will be moneyed, like it unfortunately is, will go out the window.

(c) The way this system will be implimented will be very difficult to manage. If the lowest performer in a law school class can't find a job should he be penalized under the "not working" clauses? What about the 50% student in a bad job market? What about the 90% who decides to just do wills and mortgages privately for his friends? The alumni office will turn into an government unemployment office - checking in on how many job interviews have taken place.


"And saying you want to do public interest makes it easier to get into law school."

No it doesn't.

"Women who go to law school and quit being lawyers after a mere few years get corporate jobs."

Many of them do. Many of them do not. Since more women enter public interest jobs than men, this statement is at best misleading.

"So even women are rejcting public interest in mass numbers."

For the reasons stated above, this is also misleading, at best.

"That percentage of public interest lawyers is majority female perhaps says something about ideology."

Hmmm. What do you think it says about idealogy, exactly? Aside from refuting most of what you said earlier in your own post, I don't see what this says, in particular, at all.

"But, those guys aren't poor, and they weren't hanging out at the Rape Crisis Center in law school."

Is this an attempt at humor? What do you think it says about "ideology?"

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