But if we're sitting in a nice restaurant, downing our second or third cocktail, at some point one of us will say: "If I hear from another woman that it no longer makes sense for her to keep working and pay the babysitter, I will strangle her."
What's the verboten topic? Women aren't always dropping out of high-pressure careers because of work/life balance difficulties; truth is, some dump the job because their husbands are making a boatload of money.
And I mean a big boat. We're not talking about the 1 percenters (that would only be $368,238), but more like the 0.01 percenters—in the seven digit range. In the rarefied circles of Manhattan where private school tuition now exceeds $40,000, it would be tough for a family to cut it as a 1 percenter.
I know it seems like a caricature—that expensively educated women would retreat to the role of housewife (actually, penthousewife) as soon as their hubbies hit the jackpot. But haven't we all seen this play out in big-law firms?
That phenomenon is not just anecdotal. In a forth coming study, Stefania Albanesi, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, says well-educated women are throwing in the towel because their husbands dramatically out-earn them. (In case you haven't heard, the top earners have recovered from the recession quite nicely.)
Reports Reuters's Tiziana Barghini:
"In the last 20 years, wages for highly educated males increased so much that they dwarfed the family's second income, usually the one of their wives," said Albanesi, who coauthored the study with Columbia University graduate student Maria Prados.
"The result was that sometimes married women exited the labor force midcareer, exactly around the time their husbands are promoted to more senior roles. They stopped getting income they didn't need and so they left the labor force forever."
The Reuters article starts off with a look at the career of Susanna Mancini, a onetime gung-ho lawyer who had risen through the ranks at Citibank:
But her career eventually succumbed to something Mancini never expected would end her rise at the bank—her husband's even bigger success. She quit in 2005 when her six-digit income was overtaken by his seven-digit one.
"At that point, it was clear that my wage had become family pocket money. There was a real opportunity to do other things that did not require being chained to a desk," said Mancini, now 50.
But I don't think the study is accusing women of taking the easy way out; rather, it warns of the dangers of wage discrepancy between the genders. "Albanesi links the decline in the number of well-educated, married women entering the labor force to a sharp rise in salaries for top earners in the United States, and in particular, for men," reports Reuters. The result is that the "loss may hurt economic growth at a time when the nation can ill afford to have highly skilled workers on the sidelines."
To be honest, though, I'm not quite sure what the takeaway is. Is the message behind the study that hidden gender biases cause women to quit demanding jobs? Or is it saying that it's just easier for both sexes to lapse into traditional roles and expectations if money isn't an issue?
Hat tip: ABA Blog.
Photo: Sex in the City (Carrie and Mr. Big)
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