There has been a lot of dialogue lately about the challenges career women face when it comes to family formation.
As I predicted earlier, women are beginning to run into the limits of the feminist dream, and some of them (along with their white knight sympathizers) are wondering what to do about it. This comment embodies the general tone from those who are anxious to keep the dream alive:
Anyone who was serious about increasing the fertility of highly educated women would offer some policy proposals that would make child bearing and child rearing less overwhelmingly expensive for them. Only women at the highest income levels can have children without largely sacrificing all of their other goals. Universal preschool, longer school days and school years, and a more flexible and humane work culture (for everyone) would go a long way towards encouraging educated, middle-class women to have more kids.
And he’s not entirely off here—those things would make it easier for women to have more children, and I suspect they would also create at least a slight uptick in the fertility rate.
The problem is that we cannot afford them.
The United States has budget issues right now that make funding a more expansive public education curriculum problematic. Can the US government afford to oversee a further expansion of its education system (paying for longer school days, longer school years, universal pre-school, more staff to manage all of this, etc) and deal with the coming boomer crunch on top of its other burdens the US maintains?
I don’t know. I’m not going to bet on it.
The problem here is that we have competing forces at work. Women are becoming more ambitious and want to move further and further up the ladder, but are hoping that they can keep some vestiges of the “old days” around. Those vestiges include the ability to find and marry a reasonably attractive male at or above their socio-economic level and the ability to raise a sizable family (the typical American woman desires at least 2 children).
The problem is that their goals clash with these desires.
The Disappearance of Mr. Right
Female dominance in higher education has resulted in fewer men who meet their standards. Educated women prefer men at or above their educational and financial level. Though more women are settling than before (often unhappily), that preference remains quite strong and is likely a product of innate female hypergamy. Women, more often than not, want to date up.
When women increased their numbers in college and in the workplace, society did not create more jobs for them. Women simply took a larger share of what was available, which resulted in the displacement of men. This means fewer men with the means to satisfy these females’ requirements for a good husband/provider down the road, and more men who don’t come close to her socio-economic level and frankly couldn’t give a fuck about it.
Though a vocal minority of women say that they could care less about this (they either abstain from children or say they are happy to marry down/settle), the vast majority of still seem to want the ability to make this choice, and many of them no longer have it.
An increasingly large block of the female populace is finding itself unable to get what it wants romantically, despite having been told for most of their life that this would certainly come to them.
The workplace conditions show us another clash. Women wanted the ability to excel in the traditionally male spheres of the working world, making equal salaries for the effort. This means doing equal work—there is no way around this. If we begin to make more allowances for women to take more time from work voluntarily, we’ll have to accept that the pay gap may never close. Female employees will be rendered less productive because of this, and thus could not be compensated at precisely the same level. Many feminists simply will not accept this.
If we try to compensate for this by forcing men to take time off concurrently via male parental leave, we risk further lowering productivity of the workforce as a whole, and endangering our ability to maintain the economic strength and the wealth we now take for granted, the same strength/wealth that funds many of the benefits feminists are demanding. When we artificially lower male productivity in order to compensate women and enforce gender equality, we pay for it. There’s no guarantee that we can afford that price.
The only viable solution would be for these women to accept an inability to succeed in the male professional sphere AND raise a family in a traditional sense without some massive compromise.
These women would perhaps call for increased work flexibility and parental leave, but would have to accept the persistence of a pay gap in return. These women would have to be willing to sacrifice their ambition for the sake of raising a family in the somewhat traditional ways they want to raise them, and accept that there is no way to avoid making that compromise.
As I said before, many of these privileged women (we are discussing an issue that deals almost exclusively with white, middle/upper class American women here) simply will not accept this. So long as that is the case, there is no real solution to their problems.
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