[Link] More ominous than a [Marriage] strike

post by GLaDOS · 2014-01-04T17:34:24.183Z · score: 6 (48 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 95 comments

Dalrock writes an interesting article related to Dr. Helen Smith's book the Marriage Strike. I really have to bump it up on my too rapidly growing reading list. (^_^)

Dr. Helen has a thoughtful post up asking if the title of her book is an accurate description of men’s response to the changes in the law and culture.  While the title of her book is extremely effective in opening the discussion (which is what it needs to do), it isn’t an accurate description of problem we face in the West.  A strike can be negotiated with;  offer them a bit more and they’ll get back to work.  Better yet, offer a few of them a side deal and break the cohesion.  True strikes require moral or legal force to avoid this sort of peeling off.  The problem for the modern West is far worse.  What we are seeing isn’t men throwing a collective temper tantrum, noble or otherwise.  What we are seeing is men responding to incentives.  Even worse, inertia has delayed the response to incentives, which means much more adjustment is likely on the way.

There was an old joke in the Soviet Union to the effect of:

""We pretend to work.  They pretend to pay us.""

The problem for the Soviets was this wasn’t a movement.  They knew how to handle a movement, and Siberia had plenty of room above ground and below.  The Soviets were masters at coercion through fear, but the problem wasn’t a rebellion, it was that they had reached the limits of incentive through fear.  In the short and even medium term fear is a very effective motivator.  But over time if overused it loses some of its power, especially when it comes to the kind of productivity which requires creativity and risk taking.  Standing out is risky;  you don’t want to be the worst worker on the line in a fear based system, but you also have reason to fear being the best worker on the line.  This doesn’t happen so much by conscious choice, but due to the influence of the incentive structure on the culture over time.  Conscious choices can be bargained with, and threats of punishment are still effective.  The culture itself is far harder to negotiate with.  No one is refusing anything.  So the Soviets had no choice but to assign quotas, and severely punish those who failed to meet them.  But while the quota/coercion system keeps production running, it works against human nature.  If you become the best producer you end up being assigned a larger share of the quota burden;  from each according to his abilities.  Over time the logic of this works its way into the culture, as everyone gets just a little more inclined to go with the flow and not do more than required.  The problem is while momentum causes the response to be slow, it also means it is very difficult to deal with once you have enough of it to recognize.

The problem we presently face in the West is similar.  While we have a small number of men who have decided to slack off as a form of protest, the far more insidious risk to our economy is the across the board weakening of the incentive that a marriage based social structure creates for men to produce at their full potential.  We’ve moved from a mostly reward based incentive structure to a model the Soviets would have been proud of.

You can see this at the micro level with a man whose wife goes Jenny Erickson on him.  The courts understand that throwing a man out of the home and taking away his children naturally reduces the man’s normal incentive to work to support his family.  How could it not?  It isn’t that most men in this situation will stand by and watch their children starve, but they won’t be motivated to produce quite as much.  You can confiscate a percentage of his income in the form of child support, but he no longer has the incentive to fight his way quite so high up our progressive tax structure.  This is why the courts have to assign the man an income quota he has to meet, Soviet style.  Imputation of income isn’t incidental to the child support family model;  it is essential to the function of the model.  Note that this doesn’t mean the courts have to formally calculate an income quota for each man who ends up in the new child support family structure;  in most cases the man has already assigned himself a quota based on past production.  All the family courts need to do in most cases is make sure he doesn’t fall below this quota.

As I mentioned above coercion is generally a very effective incentive in the near and medium term.  Part of the reason conservatives are so enamored with child support is the threatpoint it provides to keep existing husbands working as hard as possible.  While in the long run this will ultimately create a culture where husbands are less inclined to become stand out earners, as Keynes famously put it in the long run we are all dead.  The other problem is the changes in the culture in response to over use of coercion are by their very nature difficult to identify and quantify.  This isn’t unlike the Laffer Curve;  while both liberals and conservatives agree regarding the principle of the curve, the shape of the curve is impossible to get agreement on.  Eventually you can raise tax rates so high that you end up with lower revenue, but due to the problems of momentum identifying exactly when you have (or will) hit that point can be very difficult.

The more immediate problem in the West is the reduced incentive young men perceive to compete as breadwinners due to the continuing delay in the age of marriage.  Again this isn’t a movement, it is a delayed response by the culture to reality.  When the average woman marries in her late teens or even her early twenties, the average young man will see himself as competing with his peers for the job of husband.  Not only is he competing to not be left out of the game entirely, but he is jockeying for a better choice of wife.  But move the age of marriage out far enough, and eventually young men don’t see themselves so clearly as competing for the job of husband.  Extend the age of marriage far enough and eventually the culture of young men will be less focused on competing to signal provider status, and their priorities will shift (on the margin) toward slacking off.  The question isn’t if this will happen, but how long you can push the age of marriage out before this starts to happen, how much this will reduce the motivation of young men, and how long between the change in reality and the change in culture.  Note also that this doesn’t require men to swear off marriage entirely for this to greatly impact our tax base.  Changing the culture of men in their formative years will have a lasting impact.  You can’t rewind time and undo a decade of (relative) slacking.  Additionally, momentum tends to start working against you at some point.  As the expectations of men as providers declines it eventually creates an expectation of decline.  As each generation of new husbands come to the table with less to offer as providers, we eventually will start to expect future generations of husbands to offer even less.

As I’ve said before, all of this places our elites in a very difficult bind.  Eventually the momentum which initially masked the problem makes it extremely difficult to address.  Denial of the problem is a flawed strategy but it has important advantages.  Once you acknowledge that the incentive structure is flawed you tend to accelerate the delayed response to the new structure.  At the same time, the changes at the core of the problem are very close to the hearts of both liberals and conservatives.  However, ignoring the problem will become more and more difficult because of the impact on the bottom line.  Because of this, we can expect to see more of what we already see.  Feminists will continue their handwringing tentatively asking if perhaps we have gone a bit too far, and conservatives will redouble their efforts to convince men they need to man up and stop sabotaging the glorious feminist progress.  Less conspicuously I also expect we will see some dialing back of the worst excesses of the family courts.  However, because of the momentum involved and the reluctance to acknowledge the fundamental problem, these changes will at best only slow the problem, and they will always run the risk of initially accelerating it.

95 comments

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comment by Manfred · 2014-01-04T19:54:50.512Z · score: 17 (27 votes) · LW · GW

I downvoted because this is trying to explain a broad cultural change in terms of the response to a single incentive. To pull that kind of thing off you need an outstandingly airtight explanation, not an average one.

comment by Ishaan · 2014-01-06T03:15:23.359Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

And they didn't even provide data to support that this single incentive explained anything.

Why not at the very least least compare marriage data across countries with different child support laws?

This is a really frequent thing that I see in current events / social policy / social trend analysis...there's a lot of great thinking by clearly smart people but it's on very slim supporting evidence - even when evidence is available it's not used.

Really, is there anything that should cause us to privilege this hypothesis over something simpler - like, for example, increasing affluence tends to delay age of marriage and prolongs "childhood" in terms of earning?

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-05T21:43:13.291Z · score: 12 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Here is some information I found in various blogs, that I am not sure how true it is and whether it is so in whole USA or only in some states. Please tell me which of the following is true, or rather where and how much it is true:

  • After divorce, a man must financially support not only his children, but also his ex-wife.

  • The money paid to his ex-wife may easily exceed 50% of his income. For example, if the man's income increases, the judge will increase the payment to the ex, but if the income decreases, the payment remains the same.

  • A judge may decide to ignore the prenup, and there is no way to defend against it.

  • Different states have different rules for divorce, which can be abused by filing for divorce in a different state where the rules are more on your side.

And, if you are in a munchkin mood:

  • As a young woman, if you marry someone and divorce him, you have unlocked the Early Retirement Extreme achievement, and as long as the man lives and has a decent income, you don't have to work anymore. You should avoid getting married again, unless you want to level up to a man with better income. But living with a boyfriend and having children with him is okay.

How much of this is true say in California or in New York? (This question includes the possibility that the woman will try to get a divorce in another state, if that is possible.)

Because if this would all be true, I think no rational man would marry under such conditions, ever.

EDIT: See these videos on Youtube; they seem to confirm what I wrote here.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2014-01-06T01:43:56.266Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

Well, everyone who gets married is irrationally overoptimistic about the likelihood of divorce.

Also, part of the problem is that nobody knows what divorce law actually says - I'm an American, but I'm not any better informed about divorce law than you are. Studying up on divorce law in preparation for marriage is just not something people do.

comment by bogus · 2014-01-06T02:02:28.906Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Well, everyone who gets married is irrationally overoptimistic about the likelihood of divorce.

Are they? One puzzle is that statistics show divorce to be relatively uncommon, at least for mid-to-upper class folks. So perhaps the moral hazard problem isn't quite as terrible as it looks at first glance, given this institutional framework. Maybe judges don't really ignore pre-nup agreements in many cases; maybe the tradcons are right and "character", "morality" etc. work well enough as a precommitment mechanism. Who knows. Of course the probabilities are still bad enough that reasonable guys arguably should not marry; the question is why they aren't worse.

comment by Dentin · 2014-01-07T18:12:47.020Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps not everyone, but definitely most. Most people, from my experience, view divorce as 10% likely. The 'relatively uncommon' statistics you reference above are on the order of 50%. That's a pretty big gap.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-08T03:38:58.272Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

You're comparing the general population 50% with Bogus's "at least for mid-to-upper class folks." It makes a big difference, though I don't have statistics in directly comparable form.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-07T19:00:41.041Z · score: 0 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I suspect there's a small part of the population which keeps getting married and divorced, and they skew the statistics.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-08T03:07:28.827Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

The 50% divorce by 25 years statistic is for first marriages.

comment by Desrtopa · 2014-01-08T17:13:37.109Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It also seems to be based on a statistical misinterpretation. The divorce rate and marriage rate per 1000 people have both been declining for decades, and the divorce rate hovers around half of the marriage rate, but this doesn't equate to 50% of marriages ending in divorce. Since divorces generally occur a significant time after the marriage, and the marriage rate is also declining, comparing the present rate of divorce to the present rate of marriage results in a misleading figure.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to locate any raw statistics which would allow me to discern the true rate. This writer paints a much rosier picture, but he also doesn't link to the actual statistics he used or what process he used to determine the rates he gives, so I'd be wary about taking it at face value. I haven't found any other resource so far that attempts to put numbers to the true rate, although I have found some others which note the problems with the conventional statistics.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-08T19:58:04.682Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · LW · GW

My number is from from Stevenson-Wolfers (alt alt), particularly Figure 2, page 37. It is not a misinterpretation. To be more precise, about 50% of first marriages from the 70s made it to 25 years. First marriages from 80s appear to a do a little better, heading for maybe 55%, but it is too soon to tell [this previously said that it was too soon only because of binning decisions, but that's wrong; the problem is that the data was collected in 2001].

comment by Desrtopa · 2014-01-08T21:33:18.894Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That paper also reflects the consensus of all the other resources I've been able to find in that the rate of divorce seems to be declining since the 70s; it may be too early to be overwhelmingly certain, but the evidence suggests that not only are the odds better for a marriage in the 1980s than the 1970s, but that the odds are better still in the 1990s, and then better than that in the 2000s.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-08T22:38:04.857Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Could you point to the comparison of the 2000s to the 1990s? As to the 90s vs the 80s, the difference is trivial.

comment by Desrtopa · 2014-01-08T22:52:21.226Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That the rate has continued to fall through the 2000s I did not take from that paper, but from the other sources I encountered while searching for the raw statistics. A bit more searching suggests some disagreement on the state of the trend between different agencies.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-08T23:01:03.235Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The raw divorce rate might fall purely for demographic reasons, such as the aging population. I think Stevenson and Wolfers talk about this.

comment by jaime2000 · 2014-01-19T15:35:28.128Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Because if this would all be true, I think no rational man would marry under such conditions, ever.

Have you considered making a LW poll to test this? State these facts and ask men whether they would be willing to legally marry under modern circumstances. For extra fun, make another poll a few years later and ask how many men who said "no" in the original poll are now married.

EDIT: Though, come to think of it, this probably tells us more about the level of rationality of the average LW user than about what a truly rational man would do in this situation.

comment by gattsuru · 2014-01-14T18:58:11.609Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

After divorce, a man must financially support not only his children, but also his ex-wife.

This depends very, very heavily on state. At least by statute, the rule is gender-invariant, and focuses on the income of both parties and any disparity between the two (there's a belief that family law judges seem biased toward women in heterosexual unions, and toward caregivers in homosexual ones, but I'm unaware of trustworthy studies on this). Most states have fairly strict statutory limitations on alimony, generally limiting the duration of payments and the minimum length of a union. Some states, including New York and California, however, leave more discretion to the judge.

A judge may decide to ignore the prenup, and there is no way to defend against it.

Prenups are civil contracts, and like all civil contracts can be voided in certain circumstances, but there are defenses. The most relevant way to void a prenup is to show that it was signed without knowledge (in which case, you can defend yourself by showing that you demonstrated reasonable information) or that the prenup was unconscionable (in which case, you can defend yourself by showing that the prenup was not highly lopsided. Jurisdiction matters on this one, though: "unconscionable" varies highly from state to state.)

The money paid to his ex-wife may easily exceed 50% of his income. For example, if the man's income increases, the judge will increase the payment to the ex, but if the income decreases, the payment remains the same.

Again, depends on state. Many states limit combined alimony to a certain percentage of income, and while most states will set alimony based on the expectation of higher income potential, most don't allow post-divorce recalculation of alimony without a "significant change of circumstances", which as a term of art doesn't cover the alimony-payer getting a raise. The few states that do allow it, require that the change in income be somehow related to sacrifices by the alimony-receiver during the marriage -- helping pay for college classes is the prototypical example.

Different states have different rules for divorce, which can be abused by filing for divorce in a different state where the rules are more on your side.

Different states have different rules, but the filing processes are not as simple as just looking in a legal atlas. States only have jurisdiction over a divorce when one of the parties is currently domiciled in that state. In most cases, this requires that the plaintiff live in that state for a minimum of a six months (usually a year). If you live in Texas, and your husband or wife tries to establish residency in California and New York, this is pretty obvious.

As a young woman, if you marry someone and divorce him, you have unlocked the Early Retirement Extreme achievement, and as long as the man lives and has a decent income, you don't have to work anymore. You should avoid getting married again, unless you want to level up to a man with better income. But living with a boyfriend and having children with him is okay.

In New York and California (as well as a large number of other states), alimony generally terminates on evidence of cohabitation, excepting extenuating circumstances. So this /probably/ only works if you're willing to give up the live-in boyfriend.

comment by Prismattic · 2014-01-15T02:30:17.599Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Alimony is not in perpetuity everywhere, either (although it is in Massachusetts). I'm very happy to report that in Virginia, it only lasts for half the length of the marriage.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-07T18:25:54.585Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

After divorce, a man must financially support not only his children, but also his ex-wife.

This is not true in general. This may be true in certain cases.

The money paid to his ex-wife may easily exceed 50% of his income.

Not "easily". It is theoretically possible but not very likely.

A judge may decide to ignore the prenup, and there is no way to defend against it.

Well, you can "defend against it" by the usual courtroom arguments, but yes, you cannot choose to ignore court decisions just because your private agreement with another party said something.

Different states have different rules for divorce, which can be abused by filing for divorce in a different state where the rules are more on your side.

True, though filing in a different state is not trivially easy.

I think no rational man would marry under such conditions, ever.

Marry someone you trust wouldn't be a bitch.

comment by gattsuru · 2014-01-14T18:30:15.538Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Marry someone you trust wouldn't be a bitch.

Unfortunately, you need not select merely for folk who won't be "a bitch", but either for folk who won't divorce at all, won't benefit much from a divorce, or who won't respond to fairly significant incentives. The difference between even moderate legal tactics and weak ones can easily make the difference of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per year -- and if you ask family lawyers, you'll quickly find that "amicable divorces" are for most practical definitions a contradiction in terms.

Someone being "a bitch" can be much, much worse, certainly. ((And the monetary issues are only one out of many problems, if either party goes for the dirty tricks playbook.)) But neither party needs to be evil for it to be a major concern.

comment by Lumifer · 2014-01-14T20:04:51.685Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

either for folk who won't divorce at all, won't benefit much from a divorce, or who won't respond to fairly significant incentives.

You're missing a large and important subset: people with value systems in which moderately large amounts of money are not as important as a variety of inner emotional states.

To give an example from a different sphere, let's assume that there is a riskless way to cheat on your taxes. There are people who will do it and people who won't. It is not particularly useful to describe the latter as not responding "to fairly significant incentives".

comment by gattsuru · 2014-01-15T02:12:42.507Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

True, though I'd somewhat wrapped them more under "won't benefit", since the economic benefits would be outweighed by the emotional costs. At the same time and to state the obvious, people are aware of and overestimate the chances of future emotional states being positive.

And, obviously, neither partner need be or become "bitch" for a relationship to result in an overall positive experience, or less-positive-than-readily-possible experience, and humans do not seem to have good established tools for estimating future emotional states on this long of a timeframe.

comment by Dentin · 2014-01-07T18:08:15.900Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This largely matches what I understood as well. The only real difference is the prenup, which as I understand it will generally hold up if it's not insane and you throw enough lawyer time at it.

However: IANAL, and only did a cursory investigation when I was considering marriage. I do not know how much different states vary in their laws.

End result: I decided to not get married or have children under the current regime, and did an initial investigation on how to transfer and hide my resources to keep them safe should the situation arise.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-01-04T19:40:15.300Z · score: 8 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Another ominously looming related effect is the mismatch of our genetic markup regarding reproduction and the real costs and risks associated with reproduction in our society.

Evolutionary psychology tells us that

  • men care for securing a wife because they cannot be sure of their offspring - but with paternity tests they can. And risk nothing if they cheat - but a paternity test might catch them. And sex leading to offspring can be prevented now.

  • women need a provider to care for their offspring and risk a lot by pregnancy - but society ensures at least a minimum provision esp. for children and medicine has reduced risk by birth to a minimum.

Thus effectively the reproduction causes for gender differences are mostly eliminated in our society and this should - in the long run - lead to much more pronounced effects.

As the key factor that remains is child care and parenting I'd predict that male behavior geared toward the well-being and fostering of legitimate children is going to prevail and win over jealous and dominant behaviors.

It is difficult to tell long term genetic effects from faster effects due to incentive structures.

As this is dependent on availalability of reliable child legitimacy tests this even allows to test this hypothesis in the long run: Societies allowing this might show different male behavior.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_jealousy_in_humans

comment by CellBioGuy · 2014-01-04T18:27:56.128Z · score: 7 (13 votes) · LW · GW

Why is this a problem? I genuinely don't understand. EDIT I mean if our values are less conducive to vigorous economic competition by a particular subset of the population these days, then why should we change our values? Shouldn't economies serve our values not the other way around?

comment by bogus · 2014-01-04T21:58:18.096Z · score: 11 (13 votes) · LW · GW

The problem Dalrock is outlining is a severe breakdown of trust. The reason folks might choose not to marry is not because they would be getting a bad deal if they did (if that was the issue, the incentives would simply adjust in some way), but because they have no way of trusting the deal they are going to get. In the absence of a way of re-establishing this kind of trust (and AIUI, commonly proposed solutions, say pre-nup agreements, are highly imperfect), there is no hope of avoiding a comparatively very bad outcome.

It's basically the same reason why societies with undeveloped or untrusted legal systems always have terrible economies: there's no way of trusting the contracts you get into, hence no basis for real development.

comment by Dentin · 2014-01-07T18:18:43.678Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes. This is exactly why I remain a bachelor with a girlfriend of a decade that I love dearly.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-04T20:35:53.388Z · score: 8 (10 votes) · LW · GW

You would say child support laws for example accurately reflect our values? They certainly don't reflect mine. I consider them grossly unfair.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-04T20:48:49.220Z · score: 11 (11 votes) · LW · GW

"Our" and "we", when applied to whole societies, should probably be viewed as efforts to co-opt or silence opposition. Any other words or phrases to add to the list?

"The right side of history" implies that the speaker knows the future.

comment by Ishaan · 2014-01-06T02:33:42.379Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"The right side of history" implies that the speaker knows the future.

I denotatively agree, but I think that's okay (Am I correctly reading a disapproving connotation?)

it's okay to make some predictions about which direction morality and law will drift in the future. There are trends and patterns which are not too hard to extrapolate.

I do agree (denotatively and connotatively) with the other sentences you wrote - using "us" or "we" when there is obvious disagreement on a topic consists of declaring an in-group and I think drawing in-groups is usually bad.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-06T07:45:13.348Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, I intend a negative connotation. The future hasn't happened yet. I count "the right side of history" as, at best an estimate which is expressed with excessive certainty, and at worst, a claim to validation from a victory which hasn't been won.

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2014-01-04T19:21:29.118Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, I see this as mostly a correction of the wage gap -- compared to women, men as a class have historically pursued money over things like creature comforts, social status, personal safety, and time with friends and family. This is what correcting that trend looks like.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-04T20:41:40.206Z · score: 12 (14 votes) · LW · GW

creature comforts, social status, personal safety, and time with friends and family.

The men in question worked hard because they really wanted to have families of their own, they are now less likely to have them and aren't working as hard. This isn't a story of men kicking back and relaxing because their preferences changed, this is a story of men not being able to get what they want with hard work anymore.

comment by Creutzer · 2014-01-04T20:58:45.147Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

This. My impression is that a hard-working person can no longer expect income that supports a family. (I must admit that I have not researched what percentage of working men earn sufficiently much for that now vs. in the past, though.)

[edited to eliminate some unclarity, partly due to my confusing something, but preserving the main statement]

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-05T00:21:54.785Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

But one of the reasons why it used to be possible for one person to support a family but no longer is is that our standards for what “support a family” means have risen (see also).

If you're willing to be frugal (e.g. spend on yourselves as little as Julia Wise and Jeff Kaufman do) it isn't actually that hard to live on one income in the First World.

comment by Randy_M · 2014-01-05T17:23:47.562Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

That and that when the supply of labor increases, the demand will go down.

comment by Creutzer · 2014-01-05T00:31:47.210Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But one of the reasons why it used to be possible for one person to support a family but no longer is is that our standards for what “support a family” means have risen (see also).

That may well be so. Why does this sentence start with "but", though?

If you're willing to be frugal (e.g. spend on yourselves as little as Julia Wise and Jeff Kaufman do) it isn't actually that hard to live on one income in the First World.

Signaling that you expect your mate to be frugal might not be a widely applicable strategy for attracting one, though…

comment by Creutzer · 2014-01-05T00:31:18.707Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But one of the reasons why it used to be possible for one person to support a family but no longer is is that our standards for what “support a family” means have risen (see also).

That may well be so. Why does this sentence start with "but", though?

If you're willing to be frugal (e.g. spend on yourselves as little as Julia Wise and Jeff Kaufman do) it isn't actually that hard to live on one income in the First World.

Signaling that you expect your mate to be frugal might not be a widely applicable strategy for attracting one, though…

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-05T00:35:21.308Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Signaling that you expect your mate to be frugal might not be a widely applicable strategy for attracting one, though…

If you're frugal yourself, it might be a signal you want to send if you want to improve the odds of a mate who won't drive you crazy.

comment by Creutzer · 2014-01-05T06:15:34.878Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

It may be true for you. I doubt it's true for me. And most importantly, I doubt it's true for the average male. Hence not much of a surprise that people aren't going around signaling frugality and trying to support a family with one earner on a relatively low income.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-07T18:58:34.216Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The average ;male isn't frugal, either.

It's like any other unusual trait which works best with a cooperating partner.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-05T00:52:56.796Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Signaling that you expect your mate to be frugal might not be a widely applicable strategy for attracting one, though…

Search this post for “Attractiveness: Mean and Variance”. (That's even more relevant for potential marriage partners than for casual sex. Also, what matters is not how many people are attracted to you, but how many people whom you're attracted to are attracted to you.)

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-05T00:44:48.316Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

(You posted the same comment twice; you might want to delete the other copy.)

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-04T23:51:19.037Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The men in question worked hard because they really wanted to have families of their own

Why would I rather work for money (hereafter “work”) 2n hours a week and marry someone who doesn't work at all than work n hours a week and marry someone who works n hours a week (assuming the former is what you mean by “have families of their own”)? I don't get it.

comment by bramflakes · 2014-01-05T01:49:49.917Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Because the n hours your wife is working is n hours not spent raising children.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-05T10:38:28.465Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

But I am also working n hours less in the second scenario, so I can also spend n more hours raising children. Sure, there are things I cannot do (e.g. breastfeeding), but that's what maternity leaves are for.

comment by bramflakes · 2014-01-05T14:45:46.608Z · score: 1 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Comparative Advantage.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-05T15:34:36.877Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The data don't seem to support the theory.

comment by bramflakes · 2014-01-06T01:18:14.394Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I can't access a lot of those papers unfortunately. Anyone have PDFs of them?

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-01-05T09:01:43.182Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That is the reason the 2n/0 model is still sensible if you are raising more than 2 kids and/or consider raising the kids yourself (mainly by the /0 partner) has a higher value (e.g. by unavailable of comparable education) than the income you could earn in the time the children by school/kindergarten. This may depend on your country/views.

comment by Creutzer · 2014-01-05T00:20:10.542Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

You are presupposing that you get to marry someone in either case, which kind of defeats the point. Well, one could still talk about the attractiveness of 0-hour working vs. n-hour working mates, but that's not as intuitively forceful.

So the choice that you're suggesting is probably not one that people ever actually face(d) frequently.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-05T00:56:59.173Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Well, one could still talk about the attractiveness of 0-hour working vs. n-hour working mates, but that's not as intuitively forceful.

I, for one, am more attracted to the latter (and indeed my partner makes more money than myself), but I know that there exist men who are more attracted to the former. (Attractiveness is a two-place word.)

comment by Creutzer · 2014-01-05T06:11:53.188Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but when we're talking about a broad societal phenomenon, we need generalisations. And I would think that some decades ago, the average male found the wife they could expect to get with a 2n/0 arrangement, weighed by the probability of her existence, more attractive. Also, bogus below is quite right to point out that the 2n/0 arrangement used to give you higher social status.

As for today, I'm not sure. My impression is that the 2n/0 option is plainly unavailable for many people. And indeed, the meaning of a woman not working has changed, which may influence the attractiveness equation (including for the average male).

comment by Illano · 2014-01-06T16:27:49.805Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Economies of scale come into play here too. If you can get to the point where 2n is a typical job, then having two part-time jobs is likely to not offer as many benefits or long term opportunities as a single full time job. Even if n is a full time job, depending on the job, having one person work massive amounts of hours is probably better for long term promotion potential than two people putting in the bare minimum and constantly having to take time off to take care of children.

Also, as others have noted, a stay-at-home parent is not someone who "doesn't work at all." Most stay-at-home parents tend to be responsible for raising children, cleaning, money management, shopping, general home repair, and a host of other things that if you outsourced so that the partner could traditionally work, could potentially cost more than the partner's earnings.

comment by bogus · 2014-01-05T01:32:38.571Z · score: -2 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Why would I rather work for money (hereafter “work”) 2n hours a week and marry someone who doesn't work at all than work n hours a week and marry someone who works n hours a week ...? I don't get it.

Being able to support a minion^H^H^H^H^H^Hnon-working partner is a source of social status. At least, that used to be a widely-shared perception, back when this kind of thing was more common.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-05T10:24:44.177Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Being able to support a minion^H^H^H^H^H^Hnon-working partner is a source of social status.

Is it worth working twice as hard?

At least, that used to be a widely-shared perception, back when this kind of thing was more common.

I guess it also depends on what your wife does in those n hours. (See also this, a couple clicks from Dalrock's post.)

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-04T20:37:47.277Z · score: 10 (12 votes) · LW · GW

Wait why do we want to correct the wage gap? I might care about men and women being paid the same amount for the same value of work. But that isn't what the phrase "wage gap" means at all once you look at it closely.

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2014-01-04T20:40:53.998Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps I was unclear -- it's not that we want to correct the wage gap, but that it's simply part of the narrative of men opting out of the rat race. Alternatively, it's a natural correction as the cause of over-valuing income - relative to other values - declines in men as a group.

comment by Ishaan · 2014-01-06T02:43:31.462Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Wait, do you mean that less pressure on men to provide is a result of a declining gap?

If so, I think some people are mistakenly parsing your statement as "child support is a method of correcting the wage gap". I myself parsed it that way at first glance.

comment by ThrustVectoring · 2014-01-06T03:05:28.911Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

Err, I think so? The social pressure to marry and raise a family is a big part of the wage gap in the first place. Remove the social pressure, and it's going to help equalize the economic choices that the sexes make.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-05T00:33:35.714Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Why is this a problem? I genuinely don't understand.

Me neither.

I'm assuming things in the US are very different than they are here in my country (or I am particularly oblivious), because the comments on Dalrock's blog post fail to resonate with me at all, and I'm a male -- and yet Konkvistador seems to know what this all is about, even though I guess his country is even further away from the US than mine [EDIT: looks like I was wrong] (but he's much less oblivious than me on this kind of things).

comment by gattsuru · 2014-01-14T19:49:51.811Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

At least for a lot of folk, including many of these men, their choices reflect expressions of limited choice. They're expressing lack of interest in marriage (and sometimes even dating), higher education, and the job market not because they lack interest in these things, but because the external costs of following these interests are extreme and increasing.

If those costs were reasonable and desired by society as a whole, that might be acceptable, but it's not clear that they are. The internals of divorce case law are not established by the desires of all of society over the long-term, but on the values of family law judges facing single cases at a time -- and unsurprisingly, battles between the legislature and the judiciary regarding divorce laws are pretty common. Likewise for a number of other attributes. Officially, the gender disparity in college education is something we as a society oppose!... just not, you know, in any significant manner.

Also, while men are voicing less interest in marriage, it remains a valuable thing for women, and the majority of these women are specifically interested in marrying men. If we care about their values, having the market for het men collapse into the most tenacious or the least monied probably makes things pretty unpleasant for them.

More directly, Smith's discussion covers not just marriage or the "rat race", but a pretty significant variation of success and even what the men she asked described as "growing up". It's possible this is a culture-bound assumption, but generally the threshold to maturity, wherever your culture puts it, has some pretty major secondary effects.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-01-04T19:09:46.191Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Correct insight. But I'd assume that some part of our values is geared toward a stable economically viable society. At least if you basically agree with your societies values.

comment by GLaDOS · 2014-01-04T17:37:05.508Z · score: 5 (9 votes) · LW · GW

I want to emphasis that because men have significantly more outliers when it comes to achievement and social outcomes (both positive and negative ) , we should expect such a change in culture to ceteris paribus result in a net decrease in very exceptional achievements. Young men are also responsible for the vast majority of violent crime. We should expect delayed marriage and drop in marriage to push in the direction of more violence as well.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-01-04T19:07:23.955Z · score: 6 (8 votes) · LW · GW

we should expect such a change in culture to [result in a] decrease in very exceptional achievements.

Agreed.

We should expect [a] push in the direction of more violence as well.

No. At least not by the arguments brought forth in the post. Young men go for violence because - in the absence of showing off their ability as provider - fight for an alpha male position via force (I will look up references if needed). In the absence of pressure to show ability the violence should reduce by the same amount.

comment by BarbaraB · 2014-01-04T21:29:32.321Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Young men go for violence because - in the absence of showing off their ability as provider - fight for an alpha male position via force (I will look up references if needed).

Could I have the reference, please ? Very curious about the experimental set-up.

comment by Gunnar_Zarncke · 2014-01-04T22:06:23.454Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The best I could find quickly online. Not really experimental setups though.

Competitiveness, risk taking, and violence: the young male syndrome: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/016230958590041X

hunter gatherer fighting: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3317472?uid=3737864&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21103219067527

TESTOSTERONE AND DOMINANCE IN MEN: http://cogprints.org/663/1/bbs_mazur.html

comment by BarbaraB · 2014-01-04T22:45:25.123Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks.

comment by knb · 2014-01-04T19:31:27.174Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It seems to me that rewards to outliers are increasing overall. In addition, high achieving men also tend to be high-earning people and marriage rates are persistently higher and divorce rates are persistently lower for high-income people.

comment by Desrtopa · 2014-01-08T16:55:39.676Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't been able to find any raw statistics on this, so I can't confirm my suspicions, but it seems to me that the incentives are very different for the rich than the merely well off. Most income variability in the US lies within the top tax bracket rather than between brackets, so studies which lump together everyone in, say, a $250,000+ annual income bracket may disguise variability above this level.

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-04T23:34:00.830Z · score: 1 (7 votes) · LW · GW

C'mon, how many of the Field medallists were doing maths in order to earn as much money as possible in order to get a bride? (I agree that that's probably what's going to happen in the medium-long term, but for different reasons.)

comment by GLaDOS · 2014-01-05T10:35:26.509Z · score: 9 (9 votes) · LW · GW

You are being suspiciously simplistic here. Needing to work hard to get a bride is one of the things that most vitally supports a culture of work ethic among men. Very few other things seem to have as big an impact. Most Fields medalists probably didn't work hard primarily because they wanted to attract a wife, though I bet many of them actually did. But the culture of work ethic being normative for men certainly seems vital to supporting their efforts!

To summarize:

  1. Men can attract women with hard work (note not about money per se, it can be status)

  2. The above is one of the strongest factors that contributes to a cultural expectation of hard work being normative for men

  3. This has strong impact on the output of high performers

If it wasn't for the ruthless class segregation in the modern West, where people with high genetic potential are quickly identified and sorted by the academic system into subcultures where men attracting mates with hard work still happens things would probably be pretty bad. If you don't think this happens I would direct you to Charles Murray's book Drifting Appart. And even the upper classes are drifting away from this model, this looks to me like a social disaster in the making. Things will overall still get better due to other factors in the medium run, but the opportunity costs are terrible. (<_<)

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-05T10:54:32.235Z · score: 4 (8 votes) · LW · GW

But the culture of work ethic being normative for men certainly supported them!

I dunno about that; after all they were mathematicians, not investors. Historically mainstream society hasn't exactly swooned at “nerds”.

I can only speak for myself. Unlike most people, I don’t “work” at all, in the sense of doing anything with the conscious goal of making money. All I do is think about what interests me, and discuss the results of that thinking with other people. As long as governments (and philanthropists like Mike Lazaridis) are willing to pay me for my non-work, I’m happy to take their money. If they ever stop paying me, I guess I’ll have to find some other source of income.

-- Scott Aaronson

Throughout history most of the great art, music, science, literature, mathematics and technology was produced by guys who would today be classed as MGTOW.

-- MGTOW.com

comment by John_Maxwell (John_Maxwell_IV) · 2014-01-05T18:48:52.442Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

the opportunity costs are terrible

That presumes economic growth is positive, which is not obvious.

comment by lmm · 2014-01-07T23:15:52.927Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I remember one ha-ha-only-serious from my mathematical days: Sex is just a sublimation of the urge to mathematics. (And it's long been observed that even among young mathematicians, their output falls off dramatically if and when they marry).

comment by cousin_it · 2014-01-05T01:08:37.932Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think the standard response is that changes happen at the margins, and the Fields medalist isn't the marginal case. Here's a quote from this post that explains it nicely:

Now, economists hear this sort of argument all the time. “That’s ridiculous! I would never start working fewer hours because my taxes went up!” This ignores the fact that you may not be the marginal case. The marginal case may be some consultant who just can’t justify sacrificing valuable leisure for a new project when he’s only making 60 cents on the dollar. The result will nonetheless be the same: less economic activity.

comment by V_V · 2014-01-05T09:22:05.415Z · score: 4 (10 votes) · LW · GW

The Soviets were masters at coercion through fear, but the problem wasn’t a rebellion, it was that they had reached the limits of incentive through fear. In the short and even medium term fear is a very effective motivator. But over time if overused it loses some of its power, especially when it comes to the kind of productivity which requires creativity and risk taking.

The USSR was technologically advanced until the end. They even operated the Mir and flew the Buran during their dissolution.
While the USSR may have not been a champion of work ethic, I doubt it collapsed because the Average Ivan was slacking off.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2014-01-05T21:22:43.182Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The USSR was technologically advanced until the end.

Stealing technology from the West help significantly.

(Even Slovakia produced computers those days. Sure, they were merely copies of foreign computers, but it didn't reduce our pleasure from playing games on them.)

I guess in another discussion this could be an argument for abolishing patents: If you ignore the patents (as the communist countries did), you can have cool technology even when your people starve; so probably if you could feed them well, it would be even better.

Back to the original topic... in an alternate universe, where it would be impossible to copy the West, Soviet science and technology would be much worse.

comment by GLaDOS · 2014-01-04T17:42:25.608Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Note that this is an interesting example of a social problem dilemma as Dalrock emphasizes. Talking about something will make it worse, but unless it is talked about the fundamentals will continue to get worse. It generalizes to other problems I think. The best course of action is to beforehand determine if talking about the social problem is likely to result in change to address it, if not it shouldn't be talked about. Your opinions?

comment by JQuinton · 2014-01-06T16:11:29.486Z · score: 3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

I don't see the point of this post. It assumes that only men can earn money, or that lack of marriage is somehow bad for society. Those premises need to be argued for and not just assumed.

Apparently Scandinavian countries didn't get that memo that lack of marriage destroys societies; they are still some of the best places to live on the planet.

comment by cousin_it · 2014-01-06T17:23:07.208Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW · GW

The article you linked to contradicts the point you want to make. It explicitly says that lack of marriage is bad for countries that have a sizable underclass, which is most countries.

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-06T19:20:42.218Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I think both JQ's comment and yours are pretty much non sequitur. The post has one complaint about falling marriage rates; JQ provides defense against a different complaint; and you provide yet a third complaint. All three of you can be correct.

Scandinavia shows that nuclear family formation can occur without formal marriage. But it seems to show that such families do not last as long. The standard complaint is that without pressure towards nuclear families: (1) children will not be raised by fathers; (2) polygyny; (3) destructive tournaments. That is what people (I think including the link) often mean by "underclass," but that definition is after the fact, so it didn't allow one to predict that Scandinavia would be different. Anyhow, the complaint of the OP is a completely different one, that men are dropping out of production and procreation in non-destructive (non-underclass) ways.

comment by cousin_it · 2014-01-06T20:35:03.321Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

That's a fair point. Though I had assumed a different popular meaning for "underclass": poverty and joblessness. That would allow you to predict that Scandinavia would be different. It also seems related to the OP, which mentions "slacking off", though I'm still stuck figuring out which points relate to which...

comment by JQuinton · 2014-01-06T17:27:59.325Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A sizable underclass isn't desirable regardless of marriage rates...

comment by cousin_it · 2014-01-06T17:56:23.792Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If I said that falling down is dangerous to old people, would you reply that being old already sucks, so it's okay to push them down?

comment by cousin_it · 2014-01-06T17:37:02.883Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So if I say that falling down is dangerous to old people, you will reply that being old already sucks, so it's okay to push them down?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-05T12:11:01.420Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW · GW

I can't help being reminded of this. (SCNR.)

comment by beoShaffer · 2014-01-04T18:14:54.156Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I'm not seeing a link to the orginal post.

comment by Antisuji · 2014-01-04T18:43:24.843Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

It appears to be this.

comment by Multiheaded · 2014-01-09T12:10:46.742Z · score: -2 (16 votes) · LW · GW

Let me just bring up one historical parallel to put complaints like this ("if we ease up on controlling and punishing some particular group, this will greatly decrease society's productivity") in context. Such rhetoric was very common in the 18th and early 19th century, and its object was the proletariat and poverty. Here's a paper and an article about old-time Malthusian/anti-worker beliefs held by elites.

"The possession of a cow or two, with a hog, and a few geese, naturally exalts the peasant. . . . In sauntering after his cattle, he acquires a habit of indolence. Quarter, half, and occasionally whole days, are imperceptibly lost. Day labour becomes disgusting; the aversion in- creases by indulgence. And at length the sale of a half-fed calf, or hog, furnishes the means of adding intemperance to idleness."

"Poverty is that state and condition in society where the individual has no surplus labour in store, or, in other words, no property or means of subsistence but what is derived from the constant exercise of industry in the various occupations of life. Poverty is therefore a most necessary and indispensable ingredient in society, without which nations and communities could not exist in a state of civilization. It is the lot of man. It is the source of wealth, since without poverty, there could be no labour; there could be no riches, no refinement, no comfort, and no benefit to those who may be possessed of wealth."

In my opinion, this justification for class warfare from the top is analogous to such justifications for anti-feminism as seen today.

Tl;dr, from the outside view, the author is not in a good reference class.

EDIT: Downvotes, really? :tips fedora:

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-25T22:07:15.722Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Of course! Innovations such that we won't need to work as much are great, but innovations such that they won't need to work as much are awful! Didn'tcha know?

comment by [deleted] · 2014-01-09T23:47:04.725Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It appears this is a little earlier than the 19th century. The author of this passage is John Billingsley), writing in 1795. The whole pamphlet, "General View of the Agriculture of the County of Somers," is here. There are a lot of old books, by many different authors, with the title "General View of the Agriculture of the County of X," they seem to be reports for the predecessor of MAFF).

In spite of the ugly quotation, the wikipedia article makes him sound like basically a good person (but kind of a historical nobody).

Edit: I didn't get the links to webpages with parentheses in them working. Add a ')' at the end of the first and third.

Edit 2: Oops, Multiheaded gives two quotations in the two paragraphs. I only tracked down the first.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2014-01-09T16:35:43.309Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Do you know of anyone who argued both that the lower classes should be kept busier and that inherited wealth was bad because it discouraged industriousness?

comment by Douglas_Knight · 2014-01-25T21:16:21.443Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Adam Smith, one of the quoted people, said that gentry practice of dividing their estates was good because make them work just to return to the wealth they had grown up with. Actually, I think his point was less about effort than about overcoming risk aversion.

comment by Multiheaded · 2014-01-10T03:38:53.645Z · score: -3 (7 votes) · LW · GW

Don't know; it's quite intellectually consistent, sure, but my point is that the argument in favour of poverty was pure 110% motivated cognition, and its full absurdity can be seen much better in retrospect . At the very most, I'd suspect that someone paid lip service to the latter part after a long attack on the poor - like, say, a right-libertarian like Tyler Cowen spends much more time condemning labour regulation (and I agree with him that private companies shouldn't be charities in disguise) than he does advocating for more ample welfare to compensate the proletariat.