Saturday, May 07, 2005

Worst made-up statistic ever

I hear this statistic right around Mother's Day every year, so linking to a stale article is fine:

"According to his list, she's: raising her kids, cooking meals, keeping house, caring for pets, dispensing medication, going to meetings, managing family finances, providing transportation, assisting with homework, resolving family problems, keeping a schedule and maintaining family harmony."

Well, guess what. So does dad. He's the exterminator, legal staff, manager of inter-bank relations, plumber, sommelier, budget analyst, pharmaceutical tester, barber, chauffeur, bodyguard, website usability analyst, financial planner, network administrator, hardware tech, psychologist, security guard, video game playtester, social coordinator, and prison inmate.

He also is trapped in an office at least ten hours a day, five days a week for 45 years or death from heart attack, whichever comes first.

As a final aside, "Crittenden calls the best test for valuing unpaid labor the 'third person criterion', developed by economist Margaret Reid in 1934: if a third person could be paid to do the activity, then it is work. Cooking, cleaning, child care and yard work, for example, all fall into that category."

I think we can all agree that Ann Crittenden and Margaret Reid are better off not trying to value unpaid labor in this manner. For instance, there's a shiny nickel in it if Ann wants to recite "Howl" in my front yard. Ergo, reciting Howl is work.

How about this: if it's stressful at all to perform, or if there are genuine direct negative consequences for anyone in the the entire household if the activity were to be ceased entirely, then it's work (on the general principle that work sucks, and it never ends). Don't clean? Great, your house is full of dust, crumbs, bugs, etc. Don't play Final Fantasy Tactics until 3 am? Uh, nothing happens. If it's intrinsically fun and you pay money to do it, it's not work.

Notice what this does: Balancing a checkbook is work. ironing tablecloths isn't work-it has no negative consequences unless Martha Stewart audits your domicile for napkin compliance and stabs you in the eye. Nice.


Blogger nickel said...

That $600k number in the article that you linked is a bunch of crap. They give mom credit for 17 full time jobs, or the equivalent of 680 work hours per week. Let's scale that back, but let's still be generous... Say mom works seven days a week at 12 hours per day. The average salary per job in that list works out to right around $37.4k, or just under $18/hour for a regular 40 hour wrok week, as would be expected at such a job. Now let's scale it back up for mom's longer hours and lack of weekends off: 84 hours/week * 52 weeks/year * $18/hour = $78,624.

Of course, that's a number from 2002, so it might be somewhat higher, but you get the point.

Oh, and here's a fresh link to this year's number. If you believe the $60k-ish number (instead of $600k) in the previous article, then the value of Mom has more than doubled in three years. Much like the much talked about housing bubble, this leads me to think that there might currently be a mom bubble.

7:38 AM  

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