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Book Review: The Two-Income Trap

A long time ago I wrote a kinda-tongue-in-cheek defense of keeping modafinil – a relatively safe and effective stimulant – illegal. My argument was that if everybody can use stimulants to work harder and sleep less without side effects, then people who work very hard and don’t sleep will become the new norm. All the economic gains produced will go into bidding wars over positional goods, and people will end up about as happy – and with about as much stuff – as they have right now. Except the workday would be sixteen hours, the few people who can’t tolerate the stimulants will be at a profound disadvantage, and when the side effects reveal themselves twenty years down the line, everyone is too financially invested in the system to stop.

In other words, in a sufficiently screwed-up system, doubling everyone’s productivity is a net loss. The gains get eaten up by proportional increases in the prices of positional goods, and you’re left with nothing except complete dependence on a shaky advantage that could disappear at any time.

I don’t know how serious I was. But Elizabeth Warren makes almost the exact same argument in The Two-Income Trap, and I’m pretty sure she’s very serious. At least, she used it as a platform that got her elected to the US Senate, which is a kind of serious.

So on the advice of Alyssa Vance, I decided to take a look.

I.

Warren’s not talking about stimulants. She’s talking about the effect of an extra family income – usually moving from a system where the husband works outside the house and the wife stays at home, to a system where both parents work outside the house. Like a stimulant that removes the need for sleep, this can be expected to double economic productivity and family income.

In practice it doesn’t, because wives usually earn less than their husbands, but it comes pretty close. The average family income in the 1970s was around $40,000. The average family income in the 2000s was around $70,000 (all numbers in the book and in this post can be considered already adjusted for inflation). The husband’s income didn’t change much during this time, so the gain was due mostly to the wife getting an extra $30,000.

If families now have twice the income of families in the 1970s – who themselves were usually pretty financially secure and happy – then people should be really secure and rich now, right? But Warren meticulously collects statistics showing that the opposite is true. Home foreclosures have more than tripled in the past generation —

[Sorry, I feel at this point I should mention that my edition of the book was published in 2004, so all of these statistics about how awful home foreclosures are and everything are before the housing bubble burst and before the Great Recession. All of these statistics were when we were supposedly in a boom economy. You can assume that now they’re much, much worse.]

— Sorry, where were we? Oh right. Home foreclosures have tripled in the last generation. Car repossessions doubled in the five years before the book was published. Bankruptcies have approximately quintupled since 1980. Over the same period, credit card debt has gone from 4% of income to 12%, and average savings have gone from 10% of income to negative.

Seventy percent of Americans say they have so much debt burden that “it is making their home lives unhappy”. In 2004, for the first time, “get out of debt” passed “lose weight” for Most Popular New Years Resolution.

So, Warren argues, the common-sense conclusion that a modern family making $70,000 is nearly twice as well-off as a traditional family making $40,000 clearly doesn’t hold. Why not?

II.

One thing that finally got me writing this up was a post on Bleeding Heart Libertarians which, like all posts on Bleeding Heart Libertarians and in accordance with the philosophy of the same name, was about how although libertarianism is commonly thought of as a heartless philosophy it can actually be reconciled with the care/harm-based ethic of deep compassion for the weak and needy.

Wait, sorry, actually it was about how we should cancel Social Security and let old people starve to death on the streets:

The baby boomers spent their entire lives buying new cars they didn’t need, buying houses that were too big, taking extra vacations, splurging on eating out, and the like. They enjoyed a higher standard of living than they could really afford. Why? Because they figured that when they retired, they could just use their voting power to force younger generations to pay for their retirement. These selfish narcissists pretty much want to steal as much as they can from their children. So, while I, Jasper, and my good twin brother Jason put tens of thousands of dollars into index funds each year, thereby forgoing fancier cars, vacations, and the like, the selfish, narcissistic baby boomers laugh gleefully, knowing that they’ll find a way to eat our nest eggs.

Jason is of course a sensitive soul and feels bad for these boomers. Not me. I say let them die. They knew what they were doing, and they spent their entire adult lives making the wrong choice over and over and over again. Does starving on the streets seem too inhumane? No problem. You’ve read Logan’s Run, right? Good idea, but wrong age limit.

This claim is pretty common. If true, it would explain the phenomenon cited above – that even with twice as much money, the Boomer generation is much less financially stable than their parents’ generation. But in Chapter 2 of Two-Income Trap, “The Over-Consumption Myth”, Warren tears it apart.

The Boomers “spent their entire lives buying new cars they didn’t need”? Warren, page 47:

When we analyzed unpublished data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we found that the average amount a family of four spends per car is twenty percent less than it was a generation ago. [Families spend $4000 more on automobiles in general, but instead of luxuries they are spending it on] something a bit more prosaic – a second car. Once an unheard-of luxury, a second car has become a necessity. With Mom in the workforce, that second car became the only means for running errands, earning a second income, and getting by in the far-flung suburbs.

In other words, it sounds like a family with two working parents requires two cars as a sound money-making strategy, but that Boomers compensate by spending less per car than past generations.

The Boomers “splurge on eating out”? Warren again:

Today’s family of four is actually spending 22 percent less on food (at home and restaurant eating combined) than its counterpart of a generation ago.

The Boomers “buy houses that are too big?” Warren:

The size and amenities of the average middle-class family home have increased only modestly. The median owner-occupied home grew from 5.7 rooms in 1975 in to 6.1 rooms in the late 1990s – an increase of only half a room in more than two decades…the data showed that most often that extra room was a second bathroom or third bedroom.

The BHL article doesn’t mention appliances, but in case you were worried, moderns spend 44% less on appliances than their parents’ generation, which is partly compensated for by a 23% increase in home entertainment (probably things like DVD players). Warren says that:

This same balancing act holds true in other areas. The average family spends more on airline travel than it did a generation ago, but less on dry cleaning. More on telephone services, but less on tobacco. More on pets, but less on carpets. And when we add it all up, increases in one category are offset by decreases in another. In other words, there seems to be about as much frivolous spending today as there was a generation ago…Sure, there are some families who buy too much stuff, but there is no evidence of any epidemic in overspending – certainly nothing that could explain a 255% increase in the foreclosure rate, a 430% increase in the bankruptcy rolls, and a 570% increase in credit card debt. A growing number of families are in terrible financial trouble, but no matter how many times the accusation is hurled, Prada and HBO are not the reason.

Curiouser and curiouser. Today’s families earn twice as much, spend the same amount on luxuries, yet are much less financially secure.

III.

So as to not keep anyone in suspense: the problem is nice suburban houses in good school districts.

Around a vague period of time centering on the 1970s, a couple of things happened.

First, the cities became viewed, rightly or wrongly, as terribly unsafe ghettos full of drugs and gangs and violence. As far as I can tell, this is a pretty accurate description of the 70s, although things have gotten a little better since then. Families didn’t want their children living in terribly unsafe ghettos full of drugs and gangs and violence, so they moved to the suburbs. Warren gives the testimony of a suburban mother:

We were close to The Corner and I was scared for my sons. I didn’t want them to grow up there. I wanted something away from this neighborhood to get my boys out to better schools and a safer place. The first night in [my new] house, I just walked around in the dark and was so grateful…at this house, it was so nice and quiet. My sons could go outdoors and they didn’t need to be afraid. I thought that if I could do this for them, get them to a better place, what a wonderful gift to give my boys. I mean, this place was three thousand times better. It is safe with a huge front yard and a backyard and a driveway. It is wonderful. I had wanted this my whole life.

Second, education started to be really, really important. As Warren puts it:

A generation or so ago, Americans were more likely to believe that there were many avenues for a young person to make his way into the middle class, including paths that didn’t require a degree. I recall my parents encouraging me to attend college, since my grades were high and they hoped I might become a teacher one day. But they were equally pleased when my eldest brother joined the Air Force, my middle brother entered a skilled trade, and my youngest brother became a pilot – even though all three of the boys had given up on college. My parents’ views were pretty typical a generation or two ago. Education was valued, but no one in our neighborhood would have claimed it was the single most important determinant of a young person’s success.

Warren is a Harvard professor. Think about that for a second. How many Harvard-professor-producing-type families can you think of today who are also happy with three of their children getting non-college-degree jobs? As Warren puts it in what might be my favorite passage from the whole book:

97% of Americans agree a college degree is “absolutely necessary” or “helpful” compared with a scant 3% claiming that a degree is “not that important”. According to one recent poll, 6% of our fellow citizens believe the Apollo moon landings were faked. In other words, Americans are twice as likely to believe that man never walked on the moon as they are to believe that a college degree doesn’t matter!

Certain school districts are known to be vastly superior to other school districts in terms of test scores, college admissions, et cetera. Usually these are school districts inhabited by rich people with very high property taxes and therefore very high levels of per-pupil spending in schools – although we’ll get back to that eventually.

These school districts are positional goods. Not everyone can be in the best school district. Only the people willing to spend the most money on their houses can be in the best school district. But rightly or wrongly, people believe that being in the best school district is vital for their children to succeed and become Harvard professors, as opposed to gang members or drug addicts or menial laborers. As Warren puts it, good education is the ticket to the middle class. And being in the lower class is too horrible to contemplate.

People want the best for their children [citation needed]. They’re not going to say “Well, we aren’t as rich as those other people, so we should probably live in a crappy school district with other people of our approximate wealth level”. They’re going to leave no stone unturned. And there are two big stones available for modern middle-class families: working-motherhood and debt.

If your family earns $70,000 and the other family earns $40,000, you have $30,000 extra to convince the banks to give you a really big mortgage so you can buy a much nicer house and get your kid into Oak Willow River View Hills Elementary, while their kid has to go to City Public School #431 and get beaten up by scary gang members every recess.

On the other hand, this is everybody’s cunning plan, so what you end up with is all houses costing a lot more, everyone working two jobs without any extra money, everyone burdened with massive debt, and everyone living exactly where they would have anyway.

Warren lists some points in support of her hypothesis:

A study conducted in Fresno found that, for similar homes, school quality was the most important determinant of neighborhood prices – more important than racial composition of the neighborhood, commuter distance, crime rate, or proximity to a hazardous waste site. A study in suburban Boston showed the impact of school boundary lines. Two homes located less than half a mile apart and similar in nearly every aspect will command significantly different prices if they are in different elementary school zones. Schools that scored just 5% better on fourth-grade math and reading tests added a premium of nearly $4,000 to nearby homes, even though these homes were virtually the same in terms of neighborhood character, school spending, racial composition, tax burden, and crime rate.

A lot of the causal claims here are very complicated and iffy at best, but here are two numbers that cuts through a lot of the debate: between 1984 and 2001, the median home value of the average childless couple increased 26%; the median home value of the average couple with children shot up 78%. So families are spending a lot more on houses nowadays and the disparity seems to be heavily concentrated in families with children. Combine that with the observation that houses only have 0.4 more rooms today, and you get a pretty good argument that families with children are competing much more intensely on house location.

IV.

When Warren does a very unofficial Fermi-estimate style breakdown of what is happening to the extra $30,000 that modern two-income families earn over traditional one-income families, she thinks they are paying about $4,000 more on their house, $4,000 more on child care, $3,000 more on a second car, $1,000 more on health insurance, $5,000 more on education (preschool + college), and $13,000 more on taxes.

The taxes are not a result of higher tax rates nowadays, just a result of the family making more money and so having to give more money – plus maybe being in a higher tax bracket. The health insurance isn’t surprising either to anyone who’s been paying attention. And the $4,000 extra on the house is a big part of what she’s been talking about the whole time.

The $4,000 on child care, $3,000 on the extra car, and $13,000 on taxes are the results of the second income. Mom needs a car to get to work, the children need care now that Mom’s not home to look after them, and not only does Mom get taxed but Dad may move into a higher bracket. That means that of the $30,000 Mom takes home, $20,000 gets spent on costs relating to Mom having a job – meaning that Mom’s $30,000 job only brings in $10,000 in extra money.

The $5,000 on education is a bit more complicated. In Warren’s example family, it’s spent on preschool. She points out how a generation ago, practically no one went to preschool, whereas nowadays it is viewed as another one of those important legs up (“If little Madison doesn’t get into the best preschool, she’ll never be able to make it into the science magnet school, which means she’ll be unprepared for high school, which means Harvard goes out the window”). Warren points out that today two-thirds of American children attend preschool, compared to four percent in the mid-1960s. Once again, parents are told if they want the best for their kids they need to compete for good preschools:

The laws of supply and demand take hold, eliminating the pressure for preschool programs to keep prices low. A full-day program in a preschool offered by the Chicago public school district costs $6,500 a year – more than the cost of a year’s tuition at the University of Illinois. High? Yes, but that hasn’t deterred parents. At one Chicago public school, there are ninety-five kids on a waiting list for twenty slots.

It’s a little bit sleight-of-hand-y to put that in the family budget as Warren does – preschool only takes up two years of a child’s life, for a total of four years per two-child family. But I forgive her because college expenses are higher and also need to be budgeted for. Also, she’s saying her $4,000 child care estimate is for one child, which means that once the second child is out of preschool she’ll need to be in child care as well, for an insignificant price drop.

So I think Warren partially supports her points. The second income goes partially to increased house costs due to bidding wars, partially to increased education costs due to bidding wars, and partially to supporting the ability to have a second income. In her (admittedly slightly cooked) model, the family’s discretionary income – what it has left to spend on variable expenses like food and luxury goods – actually decreased from the 1970s one-income family to the present, $17,834 to $17,045.

V.

In my essay on stimulants, I suggested that the benefits of the stimulants would be wasted on positional goods, leaving only the side effects. In the same way, Warren says the benefits of the second income are lost, but the side effects remain.

The most important side effect she talks about is the loss of flexibility.

One nice thing about having a non-working mother is that she can, on relatively short notice, become a working mother. This is especially true in the Old Economy where even people without much college education could get okay jobs.

In the old model, financially healthy families subsisted on one income, and financially unhealthy families put the mother to work to get back on their feet. The most common disasters were the husband getting fired or a family member becoming sick. If the husband got fired, then even if he could get a job relatively soon afterwards it might be at lower pay until he could work himself back up the totem pole. Suppose he loses his $40,000 a year job and can only find a $30,000 a year job. Luckily, as we already established a wife’s second income can contribute $10,000 to the family. So she goes to work, they have as much money as they did before, and they are able to pay off their debts and continue to have a good quality of life.

Even if the wife doesn’t go back to work, having a flexible person with lots of free time is a huge benefit. If Grandma gets very sick, the wife has a lot of time available to take care of her – whereas now, if Grandma gets sick, either one parent has to quit their job to take care of her (meaning that standard of living goes way down and the family is at risk of not being able to pay debts it took out when their prospects looked much higher) or Grandma gets sent to a nursing home, which is very expensive and also risks unpaid debts or loss of standard of living.

Last of all, it means that getting a nice suburban home is more important than ever. If in the old days children spent most of their time with their mothers, it might be possible for the mother to pass down important values like education and hard work to her children. When mothers have very limited time with their kids, schools and peer groups take over a lot of the socialization role. For example, a mother with a very young son might talk to him, read to him, take him to childrens’ museums, et cetera, providing the crucial intellectual stimulation that children need at an early age to develop their full brainpower. If the mother works full-time, then it becomes really imperative to get the son into preschool to make sure he’s not just sitting around staring at a wall and losing brain cells. If the mother isn’t around much when the child is ten, it becomes a lot more important to be certain he’s in a good elementary school that’s teaching him the right values. If you can’t watch your kid to make sure he’s not doing drugs, it’s more important his school be drug-free. And so on. I don’t know to what degree any of these social psychological hypotheses are true, but the important thing is that people think they are and so the competition for nice neighborhoods and nice schools intensifies.

The last loss of flexibility Warren talks about is divorce. Something like a third of couples with children can expect to get divorced. Consider a scenario where a working single mother gets the house and custody over the children. If the house took two incomes to afford, she’s not going to be able to afford to keep her house. Suggestions that the father be forced to pay more child support don’t work – unless he pays 100% of his earnings to her, she’s not going to have as much money as the couple did when they bought the house – and they deliberately spent every cent they could on the mortgage because if they didn’t they would be outcompeted by people who did and their kids would end up in gritty urban school districts and never get into Harvard.

So Warren says that the reason so many families go bankrupt or get into debt is because the extra income doesn’t make a difference, but the loss of flexibility does. Everything has been sunk into the home for risk of getting outcompeted. And that means when someone loses their job – and Warren calculates that in a two-income family, this will happen to one parent or the other about once every sixteen years on average – or costs go up even a little, there is no buffer room and the only solution is to go deeper into debt. That just adds another unpayable cost – interest – and means the whole thing can only end in bankruptcy.

In another of my favorite passages, Warren notes that if the myth of over-consumption was true – if the guy in Bleeding Heart Libertarians were exactly right – there would be no problem. In fact, she encourages families to overconsume as the road to financial health. She says families should save, but if they can’t save, that should spend their money on restaurants, vacations, jewelery – anything but large fixed-income monthly costs like houses, cars, schools, et cetera. That way, when something goes wrong, they can easily just stop taking the vacations and be back to financial health. It’s only when money is trapped in mortgage payments that can’t be gotten rid of that things can get as bad as they are.

VI.

There’s a chapter on debt. It’s really cute. She’s all like “Did you know there are things called subprime mortgages? And that some people think banks might give them out too easily? I sure hope this doesn’t do something bad to happen.”

I am pretty sure no modern reader needs this chapter, but it sure increases her credibility.

VII.

Oh, right, I’m supposed to have an opinion.

Let’s start with the negatives. I don’t think she does a great job of proving her housing-school-positional-goods theory. When she talks about school district effects on housing prices, she comes up with numbers like “a 5% difference on test scores add $4,000 to housing costs.” Okay. That means, assuming linearity, that a 50% difference on test scores – which is way more than we could possibly expect schools to produce – would only add $40,000 to house costs. When house prices for the middle class are routinely around $200,000 to $300,000, that’s just not enough to be causing the destruction of the American family.

Likewise, studies that look for effects of school district on house price – usually by looking at otherwise identical houses on either side of a school district line – generally find modest effects.

The whole area is really hard to research. Suppose Neighborhood A has lots of minorities, low house prices, and bad schools. Neighborhood B has few minorities, high house prices, and good schools.

You can tell a story where Neighborhood B’s good schools raise land value, which prevents crime and pushes out minorities. Or you could tell a story where Neighborhood B’s high land values push out minorities and increase property taxes which improve the schools. Or you can tell a story where Neighborhood A’s many minorities cause racist homebuyers to stay out, depressing land values, and also minorities tend to have worse school performance. Except in real life there are like twenty factors like this rather than three. Although lots of different studies try to control for confounders, that’s always hard and requires a lot of assumptions that might not necessarily be true.

There’s another problem, which is that the usual measure of school quality – standardized test scores – is not necessarily the one families are going to be looking at. Suppose only a few very smart people know where to look for standardized test scores. Maybe everyone else tries to guess at how good schools are. Maybe those people assume that schools with higher percent minorities are worse. Maybe they assume that schools in prettier neighborhoods with higher land values are better. In that case, studies could find all they wanted that test scores don’t correlate with home prices, because what’s actually happening is that high home prices are causing belief in school superiority which is causing higher home prices.

But a bigger problem here is that the average family only spends $4,000/year more on housing than they did a generation ago. Warren can talk all she likes about how that forces families to adopt a second job, but it’s really not a very big share of what the second job’s meager extra income is being spent on. The average husband earns $3000 more at his own job nowadays, which means that it would be possible in theory for him to soak up pretty much all of the extra housing cost. To say the wife gets a $30,000 extra job just to soak up $1,000 in extra mortgage money seems like a stretch, even though Warren does a good job of pointing out how many extra burdens this places on people. But when you add positional education costs to the mix – preschool and college – it becomes a little more believable.

I guess it’s just hard making the numbers add up. Suppose you have two kids, but they’re not in preschool – or that you’re indifferent to preschooling your kids versus having the mother take care of them. Then the costs of the mother getting her $30,000 job are $24,000 – $13,000 in extra taxes, $8,000 in child care, and $3,000 in a second car. Are mothers really so desperate they’ll work full-time for the extra $6,000? Doesn’t this whole model break down once the mother gets a raise and starts making $40,000?

VIII.

How about the good?

The good is that Warren backs all her points up with excellent statistics, is very good at explaining complicated economic things, and has exactly the right level of contempt for everyone in politics.

Her view on politics is very very close to my heart. My impression is that she thinks of it as noise. It’s not good, it’s not evil, it’s something that you have to adjust for. Like, “Well, this would be a good policy but we could never pass it because the Left would throw a fit, this other thing is a good policy but we could never pass it because the Right would throw a fit, but I’m pretty sure this third thing would also help and not get anybody too enraged.” For example:

The politics that surrounded women’s collective decision to migrate into the workforce are a study in misdirection. On the left, the women’s movement was battling for equal pay and equal opportunity, and any suggestion that the family might be better off with Mother at home was discounted as reactionary chauvinism. On the right, conservative commentators accused working mothers of everything from child abandonment to defying the laws of nature. The atmosphere was far too charged for any rational assessment of the financial consequences of sending both spouses into the workforce. The massive miscalculation ensued because both sides of the political spectrum discounted the financial value of the stay-at-home mother. There was no room in either worldview for the capable, resourceful mother who might spend her days devoted to the roles of wife and mother but who could, if necessary, dive headlong into the workforce to support her family. No one saw the stay-at-home mom as the family’s safety net.

(in case you’re wondering, she doesn’t recommend women leaving the workforce. She says families where both parents want to work should keep one of the two incomes in reserve by either saving it or spending it on non-fixed luxury items. She admits that this is unfair because they will have problems getting into the best school districts, but says it is the safest solution until the wider societal problems are fixed.)

As a result of her disdain for established partisan groups, she manages to totally transcend politics. I noticed that when the Bleeding Heart Libertarians article got up on Xenosystems, one commenter protested:

The accusations of excess are no doubt sound but I always pause when someone mentions the housing excess of the boomer generation. They bought giant houses in suburbia, but how much of that was due to the lack of civilization in the city limits? If there was a sane enforcement of laws and no public schools or at least public schools where you didn’t fear for the safety of your children would they have bought so many giant houses?

In other words, the commentariat of one of the larger reactionary blogs is more or less on the same page as the Democratic Senator being pushed by the liberal wing of her party to run for President.

Her proposed solutions are also all over the map. Yes, she pushes for taxpayer-funded universal preschool, which should make liberals pretty happy. But she also pushes for school vouchers, which she hopes will decouple school quality from housing prices and let people live wherever they want and still be able to get an acceptable education for their children. She even has a states’ right style solution to one problem – she points out that banks used to be kept under control very well by state laws until the Supreme Court legalized free interstate commerce between banks which means all of them moved to the states with the fewest regulations and could not be kept under any control at all. In order to rein in banks again, all we need is for Congress or the courts to grant those powers back to the states.

And I will say one more thing in Senator Warren’s favor. She often suggests non-free-market solutions, like regulating something or banning something or proposing the government spend money on something. Every time she does this, she says very clearly something like “I understand the free-market arguments against this, and why in general we would want to use the market to take care of these sorts of problems, but this is a case where there is a likely market failure because of reasons X, Y, and Z. I recognize there is a burden of proof on someone saying something is a market failure, so I will now proceed to meet that burden of proof with a lot of statistics.”

People talk about dogmatic libertarians, but honestly this is all I ever wanted from anybody. Just an “oh, by the way, I have reasons for what I’m saying and they’re not just coming from a total failure to have ever grasped freshman economics.” I know it seems unfair to make people say it explicitly each time. But given the overwhelming number of people who say these things exactly because they never grasped freshman economics, it’s welcome a breath of fresh air.

I am sure if Warren ends up running for President, we will end up getting those ads where someone repeats “MOST LIBERAL SENATOR OF ALL TIME” on a black-and-white background, followed by saucy rumors that she once had a fling with Karl Marx.

But I for one intend not to believe them.

IX.

But aside from doing some legal work to solve the bankruptcy crisis, we need some science work as well. The question is: are good school districts really that important?

I can’t find great research on this at the school district level. The closest I can find is the teacher value-added research, which finds things like “At age 28, a 1 SD increase in teacher quality in a single grade raises annual earnings by about 1% on average”. I can’t find good data on how this adds up – for example, do twelve great teachers in a row increase earnings 12% (linear addition)? Do you need one great teacher to inspire you for life, and after that it doesn’t matter whether or not you have more (ie sublinear addition_? Or can multiple great teachers build on one another’s successes by not having to constantly go back and review things the students should’ve learned before (superlinear addition)?

I don’t think it matters, because it doesn’t look like there are very big value-added score differences between teachers at rich and poor schools.

What about district-level issues like superintendents? According to the Brookings Institute report, difference in school district competency explained only 1.1% of variance in student test scores. Difference in schools explained another 1.7%. Teachers explained 6.7%. The remaining 90.4% was explained by demographic factors (class, race, parent’s education level) and individual variation among students.

Teachers are kind of a crapshoot – as we saw before, going to a better school district doesn’t increase your chances of getting a good one much. So the sorts of things you can easily affect by choosing what school district to live in are 2.8% of your kid’s total variation.

The research on preschool is so complicated it would take ten posts of this size to get through it. It seems strongly beneficial for low-income children and of controversial benefit for higher-income children. I will try to route around the controversy like so: home-schooled children do much better on every measure of academic achievement than school-schooled children. Preschool is basically teaching kids to share and playing fun games with them. If the alternative to sending your kid to preschool is that they stay home with you and you teach them to share and play fun games with them, you are home-preschooling your child and can expect them to do much better than school-preschooled children. And if the reason there’s no parent at home with the child is that both parents need to work in order to earn enough money to send the kids to a good preschool…well, that’s just a little bit circular.

So I think that in addition to various legal and policy changes, there needs to be more of a scientific effort to confirm (or disconfirm) these suspicions and, if they turn out to be true, publicize them to a society that clearly believes the opposite.

I know that talking about genetics and IQ too much makes people mad. And a lot of people have asked me – why do we have to do this? It’s going to offend a lot of people, and give a lot of unsavory people a lot of ammunition, so even if we shouldn’t ban research entirely, why not exercise the virtue of silence and let the whole thing stay in a few obscure journals?

And one of many answers to this is – suppose you see some school districts in rich neighborhoods, and all of the children in those schools can do calculus and read James Joyce and get great high-paying jobs. And next door is another school district, in a poor neighborhood, serving poor kids, and those kids are struggling.

If you’re not intimately familiar with behavioral genetics and IQ research, it is obvious that the rich-person school is much better and that’s why all the children of the rich people are doing so much better. And you will do anything, make any sacrifice, to get your kid into that rich person school, and so you work a back-breaking job and gamble your family’s financial security, all because you want your kid to have the same opportunities those rich kids do.

If you are intimately familiar with behavioral genetics and IQ research, a separate possible explanation leaps to mind: the rich people made their money by things like going to college, which means they probably have higher cognitive ability on average than the poor people, and cognitive ability is 50% genetic so they pass that on to their kids, and so it’s no surprise at all to see the rich person school having smarter students. That doesn’t prove that if your child switches from the poor person school to the rich person school, she will switch from average-poor-school-outcomes to average-rich-school-outcomes, and it doesn’t even provide any evidence whatsoever that it will make her do even a smidgeon better. So maybe you should, like, not sacrifice your life for it.

I’m not saying the behavioral-genetics-informed view is correct here. That’s going to require a lot more research. But I’m saying if you at least agree it’s something we’re allowed to talk about, maybe it will pan out and do nice things like save you from the horrible zero-sum competition destroying your country’s middle class.

Because if it could be confirmed that preschool attendance and expensive school districts had low impact – or even a merely moderate amount of impact – on success for middle- to high- income children, then even in the absence of legal changes that would relax the pressure on everyone to spend more money than they have to get into the best preschools and best school districts.

X.

Overall I recommend this book. I think the conclusion comes on a little too strong but that it sheds a lot of light on a lot of trends and throws important statistics at you such that you read them. Equally importantly, it sheds a lot of light – in a positive way! – on somebody who’s becoming an important national figure. The chapter about her meeting with Hillary Clinton and the subsequent break between the two of them seems likely to take on a lot more meaning in the years ahead.

What I really want is Elizabeth Warren vs. Rand Paul 2016. Imagine a Presidential race when both candidates have very different but very consistent philosophies, and you’d be pretty proud to see your country run by either. Wouldn’t that be a change?

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263 Responses to Book Review: The Two-Income Trap

  1. nydwracu says:

    I know that this part of the internet is all about contrarianism, but I never expected to see a convincing argument that Elizabeth Warren is almost vaguely crypto-reactionary…

    • Scott Alexander says:

      But, but…you’re the guy whose whole spiel is “one of the big problems with our society is that people feel unsafe and uncomfortable in the cities and especially with urban schools, so everyone is trying to move to the suburbs”. Surely you didn’t fail to notice the other person whose whole spiel this was?

      • Eli says:

        It’s entirely possible to support a revival of urban centers (notice how I didn’t say “urban renewal”, since that ended up meaning gentrification) and also be a social democrat.

        You know, like Elizabeth Warren.

        • nydwracu says:

          …er, does she actually think it’s possible to bring about a revival of urban centers that won’t affect the composition of the populations of those centers?

          On the other hand, maybe she’s playing some sort of deep-cover Nixon-in-China thing: you just can’t have a Republican talk about fixing the urban centers, since a Republican who goes there must be fifty Hitlers, but the urban centers have to be fixed, so you need a Democrat to do it. And is falsifying ancestry to get affirmative action goodies really something a true believer would do…?

          (That reminds me, someone should get the one-drop rule written into law, or at least a bureaucratic standard somewhere. Some gene-testing company could make a lot of money that way… and it would have interesting effects, probably beyond the obvious one, but I will leave that to the imagination of the reader.)

        • Anthony says:

          someone should get the one-drop rule written into law, or at least a bureaucratic standard somewhere

          As I recall, the Federal courts struck down Mississippi and Alabama’s laws which did so. It was a while ago, and I have no idea where to start searching. It might have been at the Supreme Court, though I don’t remember for certain.

        • Jake says:

          nydwracu:

          My first question is, why doesn’t this blog allow deeper comment nesting? since I’m annoyed that I can’t directly reply to the comment I want to reply to.

          My second, and only slightly less important, question is what exactly are the Republican plans for improving our urban centers? Because what I see coming from them is more like this: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/house-gop-school-lunch-program

          Now it would seem uncharitable to Republicans to say that they don’t care about our nation’s cities, but given that our political divide is increasingly mapping onto the urban-rural divide, there isn’t a ton of incentive for Republicans to care.

          As for the native American ancestry thing, that attack has been reasonably thoroughly debunked: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-controversy-over-elizabeth-warrens-claimed-native-american-heritage/2012/09/27/d0b7f568-08a5-11e2-a10c-fa5a255a9258_blog.html

          It seems pretty clear that Warren’s parents told her she had a little native blood, and she filled out some forms to that effect later in life. What else is there to this ‘scandal’?

        • nydwracu says:

          Well, that’s disappointing — there goes that evidence for the existence of a cynical volkspopulist who obviously doesn’t take AA as any sort of sacred value and who’s smart enough to get into the party that actually has a chance in hell of being allowed to do anything.

          (Attack? Who said anything about an attack?)

        • Alrenous says:

          @Jake,

          If it’s really important, start a new comment thread and link to it.

  2. Armstrong For President 2020 says:

    Really good article, it’s always interesting to see people come to the same conclusion through completely different paths. Not to mention the pleasant surprise of Senator Warren’s relative honesty on an issue this partisan.

    There is one niggling issue though. Is there one single person in the entire country who doesn’t know “good schools” is a euphemism by now?

    Yes, parents do actually look at schools when they buy houses but ultimately if you ask a realtor about the schools you’re really asking about the students, which really means asking about the neighbors. It’s not something you can admit to outside of internet anonymity, but living among blacks and hispanics is generally unpleasant and unsafe; even professional anti-racists like Tim Wise end up in areas with single-digit numbers of them as soon as they have the ability to.

    The weird thing is that Warren doesn’t actually need to confront that directly to make the same casual link; progressives know damn well what “good schools” means, and while their official explanation for White Flight is goofy it’s not like this is a phenomenon they’re unfamiliar with. Had she called it ‘unconscious bias’ and written an extra paragraph shaming middle class whites for their racist desire not to be mugged she could have avoided most of the shaky statistics you highlight.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      This may be my fault rather than Warren’s. She agrees that a big factor in school districts is the worry that some of them will have more violence than others:

      Choosing the right school is not only a matter of finding the best teachers but also the safest environment. No community can protect itself completely from school violence, but the statistics show that poorer districts are more likely to encounter it than wealthier districts. According to one study, the incidence of serious violent crime—such as robbery, rape, or attack with a weapon—is more than three times higher in schools with very poor students than in those with predominantly middle- and upper-income students. Often, the crime rate is higher in a city than in its suburbs. For example, a person is ten times more likely to be murdered in Center City Philadelphia than in its suburbs and 12 times more likely to be murdered in central Baltimore than in its suburbs. The overall odds may remain low, but the comparison is chilling.

      As you yourself put it, I don’t think it matters much for her thesis whether families use race, income, or a combination of the two to figure out which schools they’re worried about.

      • Matthew says:

        I think this is actually understating the revelance of violence, not just in the community, but in the school itself. Consider the recent CDC youth risk survey which found, among other things, that the percentage of students reporting having been in a fight at school in the last year had dropped from 33% to “only” 25% over the past couple decades. (See also Kevin Drum’s chart on more serious crimes in schools).

        I went to high school in the 1990s, in a white flight suburb that sent 96% of its students on to some form of post-high school education. My guess is during my time in school, maybe 1-2% of the students had been in fight in the past year. If the national average was more like 33%, that means somewhere there were schools where basically everybody got into a fight at least once a year.

        • Armstrong For President 2020 says:

          That’s not really an unreasonable guess.

          When I was a kid my mother taught at a public high school where three of her students were seriously injured in fights between the resident Black and Latin gangs in one year; two were shot, one of them fatally, and another had his throat slit but survived. Remember, this isn’t three students that year but just the ones in her class.

          Luckily she was able to get out of there pretty quickly and find a job at a Jewish Day School about ten minutes away where the biggest discipline problem was students walking around without putting their kipots on first.

          I’d hazard a guess that neither of those schools were typical, but then again you don’t need that many of either to mess with the national statistics.

        • ozymandias says:

          Note that only 3.1% got injured badly enough once in the past year that they had to see a doctor or nurse. It is relatively easy to knock out someone’s front teeth or leave them needing stitches if you are motivated to do so. I’m not sure if “nurse” is a category which includes “I went to the school nurse and she gave me an icepack for my bruises”, but if it is that lowers the rate of serious fights even farther. I expect this data has a fair number of people standing around shoving each other, not wanting to back down and lose face, but too afraid of injury to escalate.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Kipot is already plural. You don’t need to pluralize it further.

          (but my real reason for this comment: who is Armstrong and why should they be President?)

        • AR+ says:

          Probably a reference to Senator Armstrong from Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. I don’t remember the date in-game that he would have been running for President, but 2020 sounds about right.

          Spoilers that you’d see from a mile away if you were playing the game, and then, the subsequent twist that would actually surprise you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mALkd3DG6HA

          Edit: Original second link did not have boss music, which is unacceptable for this game.

        • Will says:

          I went to a white,all-male private, religious highschool in the mid 90s (100% of the students went on to some college), and I was in three fights in my freshman and sophomore year. I wouldn’t be surprised if half of the class got into at least one fight every year.

          Most of these were the shoving-each-other/mouthing-off variant and no harm other than a few bruises. But good school/no fighting I don’t think are entirely correlated.

        • Armstrong For President 2020 says:

          I probably should have known that one. I’m part Jewish but it’s the wrong quarter and I was never raised in the culture or identified with it. Still a pretty embarrassing mistake though.

          But yeah, AR+ is right on the money in terms of the name. Senator Armstrong isn’t just the most over the top villain in a franchise built around ludicrous villains, he’s also got a stump speech which should put a tear in the eye of every red blooded American and a really kickass themesong. Plus he beats the snot out of Raiden, which is a huge plus.

        • Andy says:

          But yeah, AR+ is right on the money in terms of the name. Senator Armstrong isn’t just the most over the top villain in a franchise built around ludicrous villains, he’s also got a stump speech which should put a tear in the eye of every red blooded American and a really kickass themesong. Plus he beats the snot out of Raiden, which is a huge plus.

          I am a red blooded American and thought the “every man should be free to fight his own wars” part to be the kind of terrifying heroic lunacy that gave us John Brown and Bloody Bill Anderson.

        • Armstrong For President 2020 says:

          Obviously when Kojima’s staff wrote it the point was to be a caricature, but you can see a lot of nuance if you look a little harder.

          Armstrong is responding to a system where the War Economy has been used as a tool to obliterate free will, first by the Patriot AIs themselves and afterwards by politicians and businessmen who have internalized their memes. It’s Zero’s ideology all over again; utopia through rule by an anonymous inhuman system.

          Armstrong fights to end this system, so that authentic principles and strength can compete on their own merits rather than being manipulated from behind the scenes. His world would have been a rather more brutal one than the controlled violence of the War Economy but it would at least allow humans to fight for transcendance on their own terms rather than being ruled by machines.

        • Multiheaded says:

          It’s not something you can admit to outside of internet anonymity, but living among blacks and hispanics is generally unpleasant and unsafe… …shaming middle class whites for their racist desire not to be mugged…

          Armstrong fights to end this system, so that authentic principles and strength can compete on their own merits rather than being manipulated from behind the scenes. His world would have been a rather more brutal one than the controlled violence of the War Economy but it would at least allow humans to fight for transcendance on their own terms rather than being ruled by machines.

          Quoth Corey Robin:


          PP: That’s very interesting. But surely the nature of warfare has changed.[1] Whereas a conservative in Burke’s day might have had to saddle-up and lead the charge, today this hardly seems the case. War has become cold, calculated and precise – I guess the figure of Robert McNamara, the great technician of war, comes to mind. Do you think that modern day conservatives have come to terms with this or have they simply ignored it?

          CR: Actually, believe it or not, what you’re talking about is prefigured in Burke’s own theory. Because Burke says that for terror and the sublime to be rejuvenating and reawakening in the way I’ve described, the object of terror has to be at some remove from the self. If it gets too close, it loses those rejuvenating capacities, and becomes simply violent and awful.

          Once again, Prof. Robin is among the few public intellectuals who understand the reactionary mindset so well as to predict its unseen contradictions. My admiration for him will never cease.

          [1] Wow.

        • Armstrong For President 2020 says:

          The real contradiction here is the tired New Left cliche which paints conservatism as a uniquely violent ideology while itself embracing political violence as a tool at home and abroad. Doubly so when it comes from a self-described communist who unironically talks about forcing people into re-education camps.

          Don’t mistake this for just reversing your argument here; violence is a human fundamental, and it’s impossible to imagine any worldview without some violent element no matter where it falls on the political spectrum. Of course, not all violence is equal either.

          State sponsored terrorism, whether explicit tyranny by militarized federal agencies or indirect anarcho-tyranny through the proxy of a criminal class, is ultimately violence used to obtain ideological compliance through fear. The revisionists insist on playing bourgeois instruments like the piano and following feudal Confucian rituals instead of becoming New Men through the virtue of work, so we have to mobilize the Red Guard and smash the past. It’s narcissistic injury on an epistematic level; since reality refuses to go follow our predictions, we’ll just have to apply overwhelming force until it does.

          Breaking the monopoly on violence held by a totalitarian state and allowing local organic organizations to wage their own private wars is no different in principle than breaking up an industry cartel by lowering the market’s barrier to entry. You lose a certain ‘war economy of scale’ as it were, but overall the result is leaner and more responsive government practices.

        • ozymandias says:

          Let me see if I understand you correctly. Is your claim that, in the modern United States, the average mugger primarily harms conservatives, and the government allows this to punish conservatives and incentivize them to become progressive? And that we should eliminate this by letting the conservatives have more guns and shoot muggers?

        • Andy says:

          Breaking the monopoly on violence held by a totalitarian state and allowing local organic organizations to wage their own private wars is no different in principle than breaking up an industry cartel by lowering the market’s barrier to entry. You lose a certain ‘war economy of scale’ as it were, but overall the result is leaner and more responsive government practices.

          Yes, because countries that have had long anarchic civil wars, which can be seen as a lot of little local wars all over the place, become better and more stable as a result. Not.
          I think what you’re going for is a sort-of theory of competitive control, where the government that is best able to deliver a normative system of rewards and sanctions to a population will win control of that population. I just see progressive ideas like elections as better competition for control than pure violence.

        • Armstrong For President 2020 says:

          @ Ozy,

          Do you think it’s a coincidence that working married families and middle class whites, both naturally conservative groups, were the ones driven out in the White Flight? These policies served both to punish them for ‘not voting in their own interests’ and also on a more pragmatic level to deliver the valuable urban voting districts to non-asian minorities and university students who normally wouldn’t be able to afford to live there in large numbers.

          You can see the progressives in San Francisco playing the same game today when they encourage attacks on Google employees and other Silicon Valley nerds for the crime of gentrification. Driving up property values means the liberal arts crowd pays a lot more for their rents, and having a bunch of moderately right-leaning Asian STEM guys voting in local elections means they might lose their reputation as a left wing utopia.

          You’re mostly spot on about the solution though. White America is the most heavily armed civilian populace outside of a Swiss canton, and local police typically have military grade assault rifles and body armor if not actual armored vehicles; the only thing stopping them from restoring order in most cases is the sword of damocles represented by the federal government. These tactics only work because the Fed can always call in the ATF or the 101st Airborne to put their rifle butts on the scales in a pinch.

          @Andy,

          ‘Progressive elections’ have brought us a rule of constructed memes and mechanistic systems over human values. If local culture has to be sacrificed for some newly-minted Right or for some miniscule benefit to The Economy, you can count on progressive elections delivering that result nine times out of ten. Even, mysteriously enough, when the majority of voters oppose them.

          Of course saying it’s better to keep your head down and obey rather than stirring up trouble is a legitimate argument. In practice, it’s what I tend to do myself. But that’s getting us back into belief versus alief territory again so I think I’ll just leave it at that.

        • nydwracu says:

          >moderately right-leaning Asian STEM guys

          [citation needed]

        • peterdjones says:

          @Armstrong

          Your phrase, “driven out “makes it sound like whites were targeted rather than, maybe, being better able to leave.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Hearing an American rightist complain about gerrymandering and racially targeted vote manipulation is surreal to say the least.

          So minorities couldn’t really vote anywhere, then, when crime was still low in the early 60s, the racist and neurotic whites all ran away (fairly pathetic on part of the Herrenvolk!) whenever even a single black family aspired to partake in their prosperity (clawing their way up after being locked out from the New Deal and the G.I. Bill by the racist Democratic coalition!), and so the vote in the inner cities went to… their residents? I rather doubt that this is the worst thing that could happen after centuries of state-sponsored white supremacist climate of terror. Another source of the present… tension was Nixon splitting black radicalism apart with affirmative action AND the war on drugs – truly a welfare/warfare state! What, you’ll accuse Nixon of being a Jacobin Maoist of some sort?

          And read Ta-Nehisi article AGAIN if you need to! It’s a clear narrative of what white supremacy has done to America just decades ago.

          If local culture has to be sacrificed for some newly-minted Right or for some miniscule benefit to The Economy, you can count on progressive elections delivering that result nine times out of ten. Even, mysteriously enough, when the majority of voters oppose them.

          In one moment the middle-class right-wing voters are an embattled elite keeping the unwashed zombie hordes at bay, in the other they’re the rightful majority with the democratic right to override a handful of misfits and undesirables. Classic.

        • Paul Torek says:

          So, another reason why Scott was wrong to say

          So the sorts of things you can easily affect by choosing what school district to live in are 2.8% of your kid’s total variation.

          Even more important than violence, IMHO, is the culture of the school, which depends on who your fellow students are. Anybody who has been to both “party school” and intellectually serious colleges will know what I mean. Teachers quality and school administration might not be any more important than whether the students next to you are actually interested in learning, and show it.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t think most people use ‘good schools’ as a euphemism for racism. Most people really believe that education is important, and the only reason that some groups fall behind is because of poor education (or other environmental causes). The idea that education is just a signal for IQ and other factors is popular in the blogosphere, but most regular people believe that a good education *causes* good outcomes.

      • Armstrong For President 2020 says:

        I parted ways with LW a while back, but I think their alief / belief distinction is highly useful for cases like this.

        It is pretty much incontrovertible that the majority of white Americans believe that there are no noteworthy racial differences and any ‘inequality of outcomes’ are wholly a result of environmental factors. But the way those same whites tend to actually behave shows a pretty clear alief in the precise opposite.

        I’m not a person who normally places ‘revealed preferences’ above everything else, but if the question is predictive value that’s where you need to ignore what people say they think and look at what they do. As other commenters have mentioned, the association between property values and school quality is much weaker than the association between property values and demographics.

        • Matthew says:

          I grew up in a white flight suburb which had a voluntary busing program bringing in mostly black students from the inner city.

          Would they have willing bussed in so many that it would make a majority of the students? No. But it is at least a data point against “desire to minimize contact with blacks” rather than “desire for the cutural norms of the school to be set by the middle class” as the revealed preference.

        • peterdjones says:

          What’s the empirically dedetectable difference between morning out if a poor neighbourhood, and moving out of a non white neighbourhood? Why should someone who finest believe crime us caused by DNA tolerate crime? How can you tell why people did what the do just by observing what they do?

        • nydwracu says:

          I grew up in a white flight suburb which had a voluntary busing program bringing in mostly black students from the inner city.

          1. How were they selected?
          2. How much interaction did they have with everyone else?
          3. Who thought it up, and who got it implemented?
          4. How many people moved out, switched to private schools, etc. as a result?

        • Ghatanathoah says:

          @Armstrong

          >I’m not a person who normally places ‘revealed preferences’ above everything else, but if the question is predictive value that’s where you need to ignore what people say they think and look at what they do.

          Warning: I’m about to use introspective evidence from my extremely Not Typical Mind.

          Before I was exposed to things like “Black Rednecks White Liberals” and “The Bell Curve” I can tell you that I sincerely believed and alieved every single part of the common white middle-class orthodoxies about schools, poverty, neighborhoods, race, etc.

          I wanted any kids I might have to live in a “good neighborhood” with a “good school.” But that was because I really did believe and alieve the theory that poor schools and neighborhoods were trapped in some sort of feedback loop involving low property values causing bad schools, which causes bad education, which causes poverty, which causes low property values. And I also totally believed and alieved that all the crime and violence associated with poverty were caused by similar feedback loops.

          Now, it’s interesting to note that these theories recommend pretty much identical behaviors. Get your children away from feedback loop/bad culture/low IQ people. Move to a neighborhood where those things are less frequent.

          I wonder if this is why the “poverty trap feedback loop” theory has attained such wide social success. It allows people to engage in (debatedly) socially adaptive behaviors, but also allows them to sincerely believe and alieve they are not culturally imperialist or racist.

          Of course, I should caution that I may be unusually good at alieving sociocultural memes. Maybe everyone else was less sincere than I was.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        If ‘good schools’ was merely a euphemism for ‘white neighborhood’, how would we account for the very large difference in home values between childless couples and couples with children?

        […] between 1984 and 2001, the median home value of the average childless couple increased 26%; the median home value of the average couple with children shot up 78%. So families are spending a lot more on houses nowadays and the disparity seems to be heavily concentrated in families with children. Combine that with the observation that houses only have 0.4 more rooms today, and you get a pretty good argument that families with children are competing much more intensely on house location.

        A family with children might want a larger house and a yard with a swing set, but a childless couple would have more money to spend on a house, and equal concern about crime. So perhaps it really is the school that is drawing the parents to the more expensive areas, leaving the cheaper areas to the childless.

        • suntzuanime says:

          I’m not sure that a childless couple would in fact have equal concern about crime. People tend to be much braver with regard to their own safety than with regard to the safety of their children. And also for the social-order crimes such as drug-dealing; all you have to do to not use drugs is not use drugs, but to get your kids not to use drugs you might have to move out of the city and away from the drug dealers.

        • Neil says:

          Age…

          Childless couples are generally not the same age as families with children.

          If you think various social scientists putting out the source statistics (probably sources pre-Warren-citing-the-sources) on things like this are not stupid enough to fail to control for that, that’s just a wrong assumption of yours.

      • nydwracu says:

        It’s important to distinguish between types of Hispanics. Compare Langley Park, a Hispanic area, to Suitland, a black area, or West Laurel, a white area. Langley Park is worse than Suitland — but it’s not Mexicans living there. It’s Central Americans. Largest percentage of Salvadorans anywhere in the States.

        But there are reasons not to want to live in certain places that aren’t related to crime, and some of those reasons are related to the demographics of the place. It’s not hard, when you hear very loud music coming from the other side of the block, to tell the ethnicity of whoever owns the speakers. Where I live, there’s a lot more blacks than Hispanics, but when you hear music… if it’s coming from a moving car, it could be anyone, but if it’s not, it’s probably Hispanics.

        That’s not to say there’s nowhere in the States where there are loud white people — but if you select for areas where you won’t have to put up with some asshole’s music, you’re skewing your selection toward whiter areas. Crime doesn’t need to enter into it.

    • Nornagest says:

      There is one niggling issue though. Is there one single person in the entire country who doesn’t know “good schools” is a euphemism by now?

      Call me naive, but at least in the 60% case I actually think “good schools” means “good schools”. I’d be willing to buy that as dog-whistle for class (with the caveat that upper-class neighborhoods are actually causal for good schools for property tax etc. reasons), but I don’t think it’s usually dog-whistle for race except insofar as race is entangled with class.

      Anecdote time: I grew up in a rural county that, at the time, was well over 90% white. My family had moved there when I was about four, and while school quality may have been an issue at the time I wasn’t old enough to remember. A few years later, though, we had reason to move again, and suddenly my parents were comparing about half of the region’s half-dozen primary school districts. Race would have been a non-issue there: my hometown certainly had its bad neighborhoods, but you should be thinking “rednecks, burnouts, and mountain people”. Nonetheless the phrase “good schools” was uttered, not once but several times.

      (I did end up moving into the best regional school district. Ironically, this meant spending a year living next to a family that I’m pretty sure included a couple of methheads.)

  3. ozymandias says:

    I’ve long thought that feminism really got off on the wrong foot when it claimed that all women should work, instead of arguing for decoupling the provider/housespouse roles from gender. I think it’s probably because of some combination of

    (a) for whatever reason, men’s gender roles have been much stickier than women’s gender roles
    (b) liberal feminism tends to care more about women getting power than it does about women getting freedom (see also: Lean In)
    (c) dissatisfied housespouse women who want to be providers probably have a lot of free time, talent, and desire to go run things, while dissatisfied provider men who want to be housespouses probably tend to have very few of those things
    (d) the male gender role is higher status and it is easier to make the case that you want to be high-status

    • suntzuanime says:

      The idea that men should work is a very old necessity, while the idea that women shouldn’t work is a comparatively new luxury. The more deeply rooted the tradition, the harder a time feminist herbicide will have killing it.

      • ozymandias says:

        Historically women related to the child have done the majority of the childrearing. Now the majority of the childrearing is often done by preschool teachers and other unrelated mostly-women. Unless you are arguing that family members providing the majority of the childcare is not, in fact, a deeply rooted tradition?

        • suntzuanime says:

          Historically there was less childrearing done in total, and eight year olds were out helping tend the crops.

        • mareofnight says:

          Depends a lot on what exact time period you’re talking about. In Europe in the 1700s, most babies and some toddlers were cared for (or neglected) by wetnurses, even in extremely poor families, so that their mothers could work. Womens’ work would sometimes be helping their husband with his trade, but it was also pretty common for women to have their own business at something like sewing or selling secondhand goods.

      • Michael Edward Vassar says:

        Work in the modern sense isn’t very old at all.

        • Mary says:

          And for a long time, it was a mark of youth. Youngsters lived in other people’s homes, were unmarried, and worked for wages. Adults were married, in their own homes, and worked for themselves.

    • blacktrance says:

      The argument is, if you’re a woman in a bad relationship and you have a job, it’s much easier to exit if you have a job than if you’re dependent on your SO.

      • the commenter with no name says:

        Don’t commit to a relationship to the financial dependence level until you’re absolutely sure of it, then. (i.e. traditional permanent marriage) That’s not even gendered advice.

        • Jake says:

          Well sure, that’s good advice, but on the other hand it’s a fact that people just aren’t good enough at predicting how their relationships to go for that to be enough. Be cautious, but given that the breakup of relationships that involved shared finances happens all the time, and it is reasonable to be concerned about the power-dynamics of those breakups.

      • ozymandias says:

        That is an argument but I don’t think it is the entire reason feminists supported women’s entry into the workplace rather than men staying at home.

        • blacktrance says:

          That would increase equality in that it would make more men dependent on women, but achieving equality by reducing dependence is a more palatable goal than achieving equality by making some people more dependent.

    • the commenter with no name says:

      It’s really insidious, but I’m not sure how it could have happened the correct way either – it runs even deeper than gender roles, honestly, because the nuclear family structure is itself pretty unnatural.

      Also, “let’s decouple stuff” is a bit too subtle for an ideology.

      • ozymandias says:

        On the contrary, whole schools of feminism are basically “let’s decouple what bits people have and what roles they’re socialized into.”

    • sviga lae says:

      There is a case for path-dependence here.

      If your goal is decoupling of roles, then first establishing norms where it is common for women to work and have careers would be more effective than trying to create norms based on sparse couples of careerist women and homedads.

    • anon says:

      Are you sure that many people would want to stay at home and look after children now that they have the option not to? Currently I work as a bookkeeper and probably earn around average female UK income (I’m training to be an accountant. I find my job much easier and more fun than looking after small children (and I have a brother who is 20 years younger than me, so I have spent time looking after small children – it became fun once he reached the age of 7). If I have children, I’ll certainly want to keep my job, even if it barely covers the cost of childcare

      That’s not to say that there’s nothing satisfying about looking after small children, but really changing nappies and playing peek-a-boo for 16 hours a day is pretty boring. I’d much rather do it for 4 hours a day + weekends.

      • ozymandias says:

        Every time I have proposed this I’ve gotten about half of people going “but why would anyone want to be a provider?” and half of people going “but why would anyone want to be a housespouse?”

        A fair number of the people who want to be housespouses IME are some combination of really into children and cooking and gardening, some kind of disabled that makes working hard, or people with intense intellectual/artistic obsessions. I’ve not noticed an obvious gender trend (except that women seem much less likely to want a housespouse).

        • Benquo says:

          I think you’re forgetting the third response, “but why would anyone do anything without strong socialization to fill a role?”.

        • Multiheaded says:

          I’m really into cooking (my family loves it!), gardening is my full-time job but I’m not really in love with it, and I don’t know about children. So yeah, I’d rather be a shaman at this point.

      • lambdaphage says:

        I’m personally with you on this one, but I think you understimate the fulfillment that many people derive from caring for children. My mother, for example, cannot just sit in a restaurant where a baby is present without gazing longingly and clutching at her breaking heart for the currently-uncuddled infant at the next table. If allowed, she will actually pick a stranger’s baby up and try to rock it to sleep in the middle of its parents’ meal. She used to work as an L&D nurse, which a lot of people would find unpleasant but was for her a reliable source of euphoria.

        A lot of commenters on this blog (self-included) report missing the appeal of various human universals. I wonder if this might be one of them?

        • Randy M says:

          This blog has probably the most diverse commentariat around, but I suspect I’m in the minority in actually having children.

        • Matthew says:

          I have children too, but I think the amount of fulfillment varies widely. I cringe every time I read an OkCupid profile that says “My children are my world,” which to me would be a cry of existential despair. I love my children, but they definitely aren’t the source of fulfillment that, say, actually being pair-bonded would be.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Maybe the sort of woman who pioneered early feminism was the sort of woman who couldn’t imagine anyone being remotely okay with being a housespouse? This might be a subset of c).

  4. gunlord500 says:

    Excellent book review, Scott. I wanna ask you something sort of related, though, now that you bring it up. What do you make of the manosphere/neo-reactionary argument that women working in the first place is what’s causing all these problems? According to many of those guys I’ve heard from, the problem isn’t expensive suburban homes, it’s women leaving the house in the first place and therefore “driving down wages.” Do you think there’s truth to that?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      GAH!

      Sorry, that was me realizing what must have been done to my brain to prevent me from ever having thought about that question before.

      I can only find one study on this point and they think it didn’t. I’m not sure how it could possibly not, but that’s what the study says. Maybe it’s a real study, maybe it’s one of those “write down numbers and announce that the socially acceptable conclusion has been proven” studies, I don’t have the econ knowledge to know.

      Anyway, I hope you’re right. That would mean that now that we’ve pretty much maxed out women in the workforce, we might be able to expect wages to start rising again.

      • Armstrong For President 2020 says:

        Assuming the labor force doesn’t continue to grow and the economy as a whole improves.

        Pretty big assumptions these days, now that Amnesty is back on the table and the Great Recession is sliding along towards its seventh anniversary without any sign of letting up.

        If I were a gambling man I’d bet against rising wages anytime soon.

      • Steve Johnson says:

        Unless women in the workforce are actually negatively productive as a group because they change work culture in such a way that it drives down productivity but that companies cannot get rid of women regardless due to political pressure.

        Then we shouldn’t expect much of a rebound in wages – in fact we should expect wages to erode further.

        • ozymandias says:

          Productivity in the United States has been trending upward since the 1970s when wages started stagnating. If the proposed mechanism is women in the workforce –> lower productivity –> lower wages, it’s a bit confusing that productivity has been going up. Are you saying that gender-induced productivity changes affect wages but other changes do not? (Do you have a mechanism for that?) Or that productivity is actually going down and people are lying to say that it isn’t? (If that’s true, why aren’t they also lying about wages?)

        • Steve Johnson says:

          A bit confusing?

          In 1970 there were so near as to be indistinguishable from zero desktop computers.

          In 2014 every single cubicle has one – and 50 years of software for business applications have been written.

          At the same time, office culture has grown completely stifling due to the presence of women.

          I don’t believe the official stats about productivity – no one should because they’re absurd. People know that they’re doing make work in an increasingly zombified economy.

          Productivity should have gone up massively and likely is somewhat higher. On the other hand, negative productivity has increased just as much. What happens when a Chief Diversity Officer gets 80% better at her job? It’s reported as part of GDP.

        • Eli says:

          Oh come off it. The addition of desktop computers to the workforce increases productivity, massively.

        • Andy says:

          At the same time, office culture has grown completely stifling due to the presence of women.

          cite your sources. How do women ‘stifle’ office culture? This is not any kind of Universal Truth, and I want to see some proof, because my experience was completely contrary.
          I worked for 6 years at a local government consultant. During this time, my immediate supervisors were female, about 2/3 of the interns I trained were female, and most of our contacts at the local government were female. And we did get stuff done because that workforce – especially the younger members – had learned to leave gender out of play.
          I imagine it would have been ‘stifling’ if you were a male who saw women as sex objects placed there for your convenience, something we did have a problem with. Most of our male interns and trainees had to have “it is not acceptable to hit on the person who just gave you marching orders” slapped into their heads along with the rest of the professionalism training we did. We teach people not to discuss religion (I had to lecture one atheist intern not to try to convert Christians twice before we fired him), is it hard to believe people can’t create an office culture where women are respected as fellow contributors, and just leave sex entirely out of it?

        • Armstrong For President 2020 says:

          “my experience is completely contrary”

          One paragraph later

          “Most of our male interns and trainees had to have … slapped into their heads … had to lecture one … intern twice … before we fired him …”

          Yeah, so while I do get that you see the creation of a system where saying or doing anything with a politically incorrect implication can get you disciplined or thrown out on your ass as a good and natural step in human development, you have to admit that is pretty much the dictionary definition of stifling.

          Especially given how subjective terms like “hitting on” or “trying to convert” are, I’m not surprised you folks managed to successfully weed out all but a third of your male employees.

        • Multiheaded says:

          As a (part) woman who’s been terrified of being a woman for years, I can only approve of scumbags displaying their hatred and fear so openly. Sadly, in daily life it’s usually better concealed, and diffused throughout a culture, so that small things combine into an immensely fucked-up attitude to femininity.

          So yeah, as much as I’d want to throw people like you two into a re-education camp, you are not the real problem. You still contribute to the world’s misery and self-doubt, though.

          P.S.: genuine good-hearted lel at “office culture” becoming “stifling”, though. What, the very words “office culture” don’t tip you off that it’s not intended to be a brotopia of some sort, just a beige place for fairly dull work? Do you think your office workplace is something capitalist society graciously provides for you to extract material and psychological rent from?

          …On second thought, that last one might have some truth to it.

        • Andy says:

          Yeah, so while I do get that you see the creation of a system where saying or doing anything with an un-PC implication can get you disciplined or thrown out on your ass as a good and natural step in human development, you have to admit that is pretty much the dictionary definition of stifling.

          Most of the interns we had to discipline were high school seniors or first-year college students. The older interns – the professionals coming back for training in a new skill, or the urban-planning masters’ students- tended to do MUCH better on the professional conduct side, even if they were slower to grasp the concepts on the technical side.
          We got a lot of people in the entry level and had a high turnover rate, but a lot of our interns went on into the industry. “Don’t hit on people” was packaged in with other “PC nonsense” like “don’t fall asleep in meetings” and “don’t use work computers to pirate copyrighted material or for personal use.”
          We had a job to do and we had to get it done. Though we weren’t as heroic as a hospital, our customers depended on our maps and data to do their jobs, and sexual harassment or arguments over religion or other BS got in the way of that job.
          Is it “stifling” to say “get the job done, and leave things that aren’t related to the job outside the work environment where they belong”?

          I’m not surprised you folks managed to successfully weed out all but a third of your male employees.

          Generally, male and female interns got through the program at the same rate.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          Most of the interns we had to discipline were high school seniors or first-year college students. The older interns – the professionals coming back for training in a new skill, or the urban-planning masters’ students- tended to do MUCH better on the professional conduct side, even if they were slower to grasp the concepts on the technical side.

          That does not seem surprising. The gradual change which led to the current office climate has been going on for a long time. Guys who have been in the workforce for a while have already learned to conform ideologically lest they be sent for re-education or altogether purged.

        • peterdjones says:

          What if reactionaries give off a radiation that kills brain cells?

        • Andy says:

          That does not seem surprising. The gradual change which led to the current office climate has been going on for a long time. Guys who have been in the workforce for a while have already learned to conform ideologically lest they be sent for re-education or altogether purged.

          Actually, the owner of the company was, while mostly a good man and a mentor, also showed me some things NOT TO DO in an office setting. He said some things that could be construed in a classist, racist, misogynist way (one of my favorites: “the only women in engineering are the Indian girls,” in front of a Pakistani programming teacher) but he was a man of his generation and he made clear a kind of “do as I say, not as I do.” He’s the same one who promoted one of my female interns to the best department manager I ever had.
          So I’d amend – males in the top end are protected by their position, and in my boss’ case by his competence and connections, but males lower down the hierarchy had to learn to conform to the amended rules of professionalism. Most of the “older” interns we got were from lower on the hierarchy.
          Just as a mixed-religion environment makes “don’t proselytize to your coworkers” a necessary rule, a mixed-gender environment makes “don’t hit on/insult/denigrate your other-gender coworkers” a necessary rule. Though the persistent sexism and misogyny that impacts anyone female working in IT remains a stubborn holdout, that it’s considered a problem at all is promising.

        • ozymandias says:

          I feel like y’all reactionaries would be singing a different tune about whether “don’t hit on people at the workplace” is stifling when you get hit on by a gay man or a fat woman.

          …also I’m sort of confused about the mechanism that leads from “no hitting on people at the workplace” to “lower productivity.” Like, even assuming it’s raw professionalism-signalling with no benefit, so is having to dress professionally, and it seems unlikely that office dress codes reduce wages.

        • Jake says:

          This whole thread is some really classic stuff. I was about to say classic reactionary stuff, but they’re not the only ones who do this sort of thing. You start with an empirical claim, like that women negatively effect work culture. Some evidence is presented against that claim, which while not proof, does at least point to it’s being false. The response is of course not to consider you might be wrong, but instead just start throwing out theory after theory about how the evidence might be flawed.

        • Kiboh says:

          @Eli: I’ve heard that’s not actually true. Like, it SHOULD be true, the fact that it isn’t is (rightly) considered a ridiculous paradox, but apparently productivity-enhancing machines don’t actually enhance productivity.

          See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Productivity_paradox

        • Anonymous says:

          @ozymandias
          > …also I’m sort of confused about the mechanism that > leads from “no hitting on people at the workplace” to > “lower productivity.”

          I’m an ugly, low-status male at a tech company with strong feminist sensibilities. This means I’ve gone through several briefings explaining just how quickly I’ll get fired if any woman thinks I’m trying to harass her. (I’m also technically a manager, which dramatically increases my _personal_ liability to legal problems here.) I also have political opinions the median employee disagrees with, especially the more feminist ones; I have given up talking about them at work in most scenarios, but I’m still known for having them.

          So supposing I politely smile at some cute woman in the next office and ask if she wants to have coffee. Heck, suppose I invite her to go play Smash Brothers in the breakroom with my usual group and she decides I was hitting on her. She calls me a creep, is disgusted that I thought I had a chance, and knowing that I’m an evil conservative, files a complaint. My employer would probably win the suit if it came to that, but they’re sure as hell not going to take that chance; it’s easier (and more politically favored) to just fire me.

          The only sane conclusion is: “speak when spoken to.” I will under no circumstances start a conversation with a female employee on any topic that isn’t explicitly “I have technical request X for which you are the appropriate contact point” unless she explicitly talks to me about that topic. This is unpleasant to implement, not to mention personally humiliating to have to think about.

          Does this sufficiently explain why I’m under a constant low level of stress about being fired for wrongthink, and how that might decrease my productivity?

        • Multiheaded says:

          @Anonymous:

          Congratulations, you’re exactly what the liberals want the system to combat. Be grateful that the same bureaucratic tyranny you’re whining about doesn’t deign to actually fire you as long as you keep your mouth shut. Clearly most of your co-workers would agree that you’re the only real problem here. Any marginal wealth you might be generating is offset by the toxic attitude you bring to day-to-day human relations. Go and remake yourself!

          :stomps on face, forever:

        • Andy says:

          @Multi

          Comment reported for excessive unkindness. Unless is meant as irony or sarcasm, which I really can’t tell.

          @Anonymous

          First, a few questions: When you are “So supposing I politely smile at some cute woman in the next office and ask if she wants to have coffee,” Are you trying to hit on these women or being friendly in a non-sexual, non-romantic way?
          IE, are you trying to invite them to play Smash Brothers in a non-hitting-on way? I ask this as a fellow low-status male, who’s actually been falsely accused of hitting on a female classmate. My advice, though I’ve never worked for a company with “feminist sensibilities,” if you mean radfem sensibilities. My work experience has been more of the “keep your personal life out of the office, dammit!” sensibility, and I was always working in a relatively small group of people, except for the rotating crop of who’s-an-intern-this-month.
          If you actually are trying to get play, I dunno what to tell you. f you are trying to participate in/contribute to an egalitarian, non-threatening workplace culture, I would suggest going to someone in HR and asking them “Hey, my social skills aren’t great, how can I invite someone of the opposite gender to join a game of Smash Brothers without being it being mistaken for an inappropriate advance?” If you phrase it in terms of “I want to be as unthreatening and comfortable as possible” and not “women will be disgusted by me and purge me,” it may go better. But I have no experience working at a large company and all my advice is suspect. Anyone else have a thought?

        • Oligopsony says:

          >low-status
          >also technically a manager

          this is a pretty good précis of right ressentiment nowadays, also how the LW crowd uses “status”

        • Multiheaded says:

          @Oligopsony:

          When used by ordinary LW-ish types (which does just about cover you, me, Andy, Ialbadaoth… – outsiders would see us as LW-ers, even as we conspire against the euphoric redpilled techlords!), “low status” might mean any number of things, but in whines like this it always appears to mean “friendzoned and misandered”. Because status is what matters to females, and you can tell that it matters because they friendzone and misander him, who is low-status, and you can tell he’s low-status by all the friendzonings and misanderings.

        • protip says:

          Don’t take advice from people who start out by accusing you of lying.

        • Hainish says:

          @Anonymous: “I invite her to go play Smash Brothers in the breakroom with my usual group and she decides I was hitting on her. She calls me a creep, is disgusted that I thought I had a chance, and knowing that I’m an evil conservative, files a complaint. ”

          Or, more likely, she feels that she has no recourse but to do what you want, because you’re her superior and may find a way to get back on her if she disappoints you. (If you’ve already made it clear that you don’t respect women very much, then, in her mind, this revenge scenario becomes more likely.)

          That said, it is unlikely that asking someone if they’d like to join a game would elicit this reaction.

        • Andy says:

          Don’t take advice from people who start out by accusing you of lying.

          Who’s accusing who of lying?

          That said, it is unlikely that asking someone if they’d like to join a game would elicit this reaction.

          I’ve actually been in a similar situation with someone who didn’t like me very much and had some emotional difficulties, and she ended up reporting me to the school administration for sexual harrassment when I tried to bury the hatchet. A teacher who had seen her treatment and bullying of me intervened and spared me from some pretty strong discipline, but the rarity of such situations does not often help those who are caught in them.

        • Randy M says:

          Mulit: “Congratulations, you’re exactly what the liberals want the system to combat. Be grateful that the same bureaucratic tyranny you’re whining about doesn’t deign to actually fire you as long as you keep your mouth shut”

          I’m not sure if this comment is an astonishingly self- (or at least group) aware tongue in cheek lampshading of a pointed lack of empathy in progressism/liberalism, genuinely approving of the squashing of opression, or simply an example of belittling the complaint with withering sarcasm. Good show at illustrating Poe’s law, I guess.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          @anonymous
          You sound to me like a decent person who’s probably confused by some of the hostile responses you’re getting. The situation you describe is not one anyone should have to live with. Still, I wonder if things are entirely as you perceive them.

          Don’t have any links, but I could swear I’ve read all about how intimidating and career-harming it is for a woman to bring a harassment claim, such that most are probably as scared to bring even a true claim as you are of having a false one brought.

          I do believe there’s a signalling thing where companies always want to appear tougher on harassment and never want to say anything moderating, so I’m willing to believe the briefings you’ve had make the company sound oppressively misandrist, but that doesn’t necessarily match the situation on the ground. I’d ask what you’ve seen happen, but honestly I’m not going to change my mind based on anecdotes from an anonymous internet commenter. Does anyone have any numbers that shed any light on the situation (that is, whether false/frivolous harassment claims are a serious problem)?

        • Oligopsony says:

          I’m not sure if this comment is an astonishingly self- (or at least group) aware tongue in cheek lampshading of a pointed lack of empathy in progressism/liberalism, genuinely approving of the squashing of opression, or simply an example of belittling the complaint with withering sarcasm.

          False trichotomy. Neoreactionaries certainly know how to épater le bourgeois with straightforward language, why can’t others? Ordinary political discourse has grown so civilized and euphemistic that talk of intimidating one’s enemies into compliance is taken as self-parody rather than a constituent part of any this-worldly political program as such, which it is.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          @Oligopsony:
          Isn’t that the second option, then?

          But more to the point, if one is going to be that unkind, one should at least provide some supporting argument. Without that, “The system is oppressing you because you’re the kind of person we want to oppress” is a fully general response to all claims of injustice.

          So, Multi, or any who would speak for [Multi’s pronoun of choice]: What exactly about Anonymous is toxic? Is it a stated opinion or attitude, or one you’ve inferred? In what way does the system selectively target people who are toxic in that way?

        • Randy M says:

          Oligo/ADA:
          I do think that’s pretty much what I was trying to get across with option 2, “genuinely approving of any ‘oppression'” (scare quoted for lack of better word [Or am I defaulting into shying away from non-euphemisms?])

        • Oligopsony says:

          Hylomorphism: (2) predicates substance, (1) and (3) form.

          The same arrangement can be easily seen on the right at places like /pol/, where a single cartoon can for instance simultaneously unironically endorse anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, heap derision on Jews, and poke fun at itself for conforming to stereotypes the mainstream has of the right.

      • gunlord500 says:

        Thanks for the paper! Exactly the sort of thing I was looking for.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        Pretty big assumptions these days, now that Amnesty is back on the table and the Great Recession is sliding along towards its seventh anniversary without any sign of letting up.

        Don’t forget automation and globalization. Pretty hard to keep your wages up when Chinese laborers, Indian programmers, and Japanese robots are all willing to do your job for less.

      • Eh, you do read The Last Psychiatrist, don’t you? [W]hat the system really wants is people, especially the still not maxed out women, to want to work harder for it.

        (There are, of course, other places which talk a lot about “the system”; but it’s hard to find something as long and as cynical as TLP.)

        • Eli says:

          So you’re saying capitalism wants to increase the rate of profit by increasing the rate of exploitation when other sources of profit “feel like” they’ve been tapped out?

          This is certainly a viable explanation of neoliberalism as a reaction to the ’70s oil crisis and stagflation.

        • Multiheaded says:

          I 100% agree, and so would most Marxists, I imagine.

        • nydwracu says:

          So why isn’t there more opposition from the left toward women being pushed (or ~nudged~ or whatever) into entering the workforce…?

          Wasn’t there some socialist type who instituted a pension for housewives? Maybe it was Chavez.

        • Oligopsony says:

          There are left pushes towards total reduction in working hours. Also along the pensions thing you mention Wages For Housework was a thing.

          But skepticism towards economic expansion + anti feminism + moderate leveling already has a name as Christian Democracy, and the center-left has certainly entered into alliances with it when advantageous to both.

        • Multiheaded says:

          So why isn’t there more opposition from the left toward women being pushed (or ~nudged~ or whatever) into entering the workforce…?

          I’d guess that the core reason is the same as for the liberal push for increasing college attendance as opposed to improving conditions for non-college-educated workers: we are at a political Nash equilibrium! There is a policy that’s better from a neutral/technocratic view and actually more leftist, but it requires going on the offensive against some key implicit concessions that the Right has won in an earlier conflict (we can’t fairly evaluate and compensate “women’s work” because our way of life relies on the high rate of exploitation! we can’t make workers more secure or they’ll tell the bosses to fuck off!). And the Right need not be so malicious that they’d sabotage a win-win proposal for ideology’s sake, just instumentally rational enough to demand something big in return, both for its own sake and to disincentivize further power grabs. This also happens symmetrically.

          So, a stalemate. “Equality of opportunity” being held up against equality of outcome is all about that. Less redistribution but anti-discrimination; anti-discrimination but less redistribution. Inefficient social safety net but no basic income; no basic income but an social safety net. Etc, etc.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Why is this even a neoreactionary argument? Labor supply goes up, price goes down. It’s a progressive argument when you’re talking about child labor or longer hours. Rephrase it from ‘women entering the workplace’ to ‘switching from one-provider to two-provider households’ and it’s a gender neutral case that’s in no danger of being confused for arguing that women have negative productivity. Unless we’re intending to talk about that second thing here, in which case we should also discuss the first thing.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Once again, it’s a goddamn Nash equilibrium. But there’s reasonable hope of breaking patriarchy altogether and getting wages for housework, etc in Western social democracies. Unless the social democracies themselves are destroyed. The intellectual class is probably down with the idea; look at how much they love unschooling.

  5. ShardPhoenix says:

    Interesting (and thanks for writing this up), but like a lot of things this is America-centric in a way that leaves something to be desired. For example, Australia has similar female work-force participation to the US, despite not having the same degree of urban crime problems – so that’s probably not the whole story.

  6. James Miller says:

    From a lengthy review of The Two Income Trap by Megan McArdle, my favorite economic journalist:

    “But while I found the thesis compelling, there were some problems with the book…some of her evidence doesn’t really support her thesis, and can be made to appear to support her thesis only by making some very weird choices about what metrics to use.”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2010/07/considering-elizabeth-warren-the-scholar/60211/

    See also Megan’s article “Elizabeth Warren and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, Utterly Misleading Bankruptcy Study”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/06/elizabeth-warren-and-the-terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-utterly-misleading-bankruptcy-study/18826/

  7. Anonymous says:

    The 2nd study on test scores and housing prices found that a 10 percentage point increase in the black percentage of a high school is associated with 4.2% lower property values. Interestingly, there was no statistically significant effect for elementary schools. This could provide support for the housing as positional good theory–while there generally won’t be a 50% difference in test scores between schools, there could easily be a 50 percentage point or more difference in the % of a school that’s black.

  8. Qiaochu Yuan says:

    When you say “home-schooled children do much better on every measure of academic achievement than school-schooled children,” is this even after controlling for parental IQ (controlling for parental income being a political safer and probably easier-to-get-data-about proxy)?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Probably not.

    • Alrenous says:

      In the first study I found, the homeschool parents had lower income and lower educational attainment. That said, n=74. (It was pretty easy since it was all from a single location.)

      This overview mentions someone called Cardus who corrected for income and found homeschooled were still better at school than the Prussian schooled. I would look up Cardus but at this point I’m sure you can google just as well as I can.

      These were selected by proximity. They were the first relevant, unbiased results I found.

  9. Mary says:

    “Maybe those people are a little racist and assume that schools with higher percent minorities are worse.”

    There was actually a suit in Connecticut where a black student sued because he had too many minorities in his school and we all know that minorities contaminate the classroom and whites clean it up so education can take place. . . . And what’s more, he won.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I am guessing you are discussing a lawsuit about segregation in not-especially-charitable terms, but I’m willing to be proven wrong. Link?

      • Mary says:

        Sheff v. O’Neill

        • Will says:

          The actual legal argument in Sheff v. O’Neill was that by spending less in schools with predominately minority students the state of Connecticut was violating student’s right to an education/equal protection under the law.

          Also, it was at best an on-paper win. The original case started in the late 80s. In 2003, a settlement was put forward under which the schools would try to rectify the inequality. That settlement expired in 2007 with no real action having been taken, so a new settlement was put forth in 2008. So in 20 years, basically nothing has happened as a result.

        • Anonymous says:

          Maybe Sheff only argued about money, but the court ruled mainly about “racial isolation.”

  10. Nicholas Weininger says:

    If the Warren thesis you describe is true, I think racist suburban zoning laws are probably an overlooked key factor.

    Look at the house size thing. 5.7 to 6.1 rooms doesn’t seem like much of a change, but a 3 bd/ 2ba house can plausibly be 1500sf or 3000sf and those are very different houses with very different prices. And indeed median square footage increased by about a third from 1975-2000:
    http://www.census.gov/const/C25Ann/sftotalmedavgsqft.pdf

    Now why would people buy houses with larger rooms? Well, if it’s not overconsumption, another plausible mechanism is an Alchian-Allen effect from large suburban minimum lot sizes: it doesn’t pay to build a modest house on a big lot. Why do suburbs require big lots? Nominally to “preserve neighborhood character” or whatever, in practice because if they allowed modest houses on small lots (or even more so, multi-family buildings or apartment complexes) too many black people would be able to afford them.

    So basically, if this is right, the white middle class is being hoist on its own petard, and it could have been a lot less bad if the Justice Department had done the right thing and applied stringent disparate impact scrutiny to zoning.

    • Anthony says:

      Why do suburbs require big lots? Nominally to “preserve neighborhood character” or whatever, in practice because if they allowed modest houses on small lots (or even more so, multi-family buildings or apartment complexes) too many black people would be able to afford them.

      The other side of that coin is that if residential segregation were still legal, white people wouldn’t need to build large, expensive houses (or golf courses in subdivisions*) to keep black people out, and would be happy with smaller houses closer to their jobs.

      *Black people are generally not interested in golf, Tiger Woods notwithstanding, and in general are even less interested in paying tens of thousands of dollars to have a golf-club membership included with their house.

      • Jake says:

        But given that reintroducing official segregation would be as awful as it is unlikely, so I think we can ignore that as a potential solution moving forward.

        Assuming your explanation is correct, then from a racist perspective, what would be the reaction of the white flight set if we achieved enough racial equality that high prices didn’t keep out minorities effectively enough? Imagine it’s been achieved by Evil Government Redistribution if that helps with plausibility.

        • Anthony says:

          Most of the racism that drives white flight is rational, based on people’s experience of people of other races. If blacks behaved as well as whites of the same income level, most people wouldn’t have bothered to leave once segregation ended, and in fact, there would have been much less segregation in the first place.

          Progressives are generally better at achieving de facto segregation than are conservatives, at least for wealthy progressives. The sort of restrictive zoning which protects white/asian neighborhoods in San Francisco is much more common in liberal/progressive areas than in conservative areas. Really strict rent control, which has managed to eliminate nearly all of Berkeley’s black population, only happens in the leftiest of towns.

        • James James says:

          “But given that reintroducing official segregation would be as awful as it is unlikely, so I think we can ignore that as a potential solution moving forward.”

          Thousands of words of comments, but only a single sentence devoted to (dismissing) the obvious solution.

          Segregation doesn’t have to be enforced by the state. All the state needs to do is to stop prohibiting discrimination on grounds of anything other than money. Landlords will do the segregation themselves, because it is profitable. (Otherwise no one would have bothered to ban it.) Spontaneous order!

  11. the commenter with no name says:

    I don’t think the details of how it happened matter – as long as we live in a civilization which considers humans means to the end of “the economy” rather than as ends in themselves, this would have happened. (e.g. we automate something, and then condemn all the newly unemployed workers as parasites, rather than celebrating that more human beings have been freed from drudge work to pursue their desires.)

    I don’t think it’s fixable short of a Moldbug-style apocalypse. (Style, not substance.)

    • Armstrong For President 2020 says:

      Couldn’t agree more about the fetishism of the economy as an end in itself, but part of the reason no-one is celebrating automation is that most people’s desires really shouldn’t be pursued. Idle hands are the devil’s playthings after all; it takes a very noble character to live a civilized life when one has the choice not to.

      Also, not entirely clear on what a ‘Moldbug-style’ apocolypse is. Care to elaborate?

      • Jake says:

        Well, while I also agree about it being bad to fetishize the economy, the rest of your post seems pretty crazy to me. Could you give a few examples of problems caused by people having too much free time? The most salient aspect of the modern economy seems to be a desperate scramble to lay claim to the fewer and fewer remaining good jobs, combined with declining crime even in the midst of bad economic times. This doesn’t sound to me like people making poor use of extra freedom.

        • Oligopsony says:

          combined with declining crime even in the midst of bad economic times

          IIRC this is true of recessionary conditions in general, which seems to imply (with a lot of other evidence) that a big driver of crime is relative deprivation and greater required standards for material success. So per your intuitions it may be precisely not idle hands being the Devil’s playground but the Devil’s whispers that hands ought not remain idle.

          Throughout history most people lived in highly solidary villages where a modern work ethic would have been seen as insane. So laziness doesn’t have to be anomic per se. OTOH I’m not sure there are non-anomic pathways there and I think we might be better off with some sort of eudaimonaic workfare, like drafting everyone into marching bands or something.

        • Jake says:

          I just don’t see much evidence that not needing to work is associated with unhappiness. People have different work ethics. Some would be perfectly happy to never work again, others would go crazy after a week. The nice thing is that automation is never going to make it impossible for people to work, just more difficult to make enough money at work to maintain a decent standard of living. People who get a lot out of working will always have the option to go volunteer somewhere, or just work independently on whatever project they choose. I’d have to be really, really confident that work was very good for people before I’d advocate a system mandating that everyone do some sort of makework because we’re worried about what they’d do in their free time.

          An interesting group to look at in this respect are retirees. The retired already have higher self-reported happiness than any other group in the country, so that’s a good sign for not working not being a big deal. A recent study gives some support to the idea that work is beneficial – saying retirees with flexible, part time jobs are happier than their non-working peers, but also says that people only get these benefits when they’re working by choice rather than necessity. That sounds a lot like a utopian eudaimonaic work setup to me: no one has to, but if you want to have a little structure and do something nice for people, just get involved with some altruistic organization where you can add a little value. Even if the work could be done better by a machine, if people are just doing it for free out of boredom they would always be competitive.

          Link to the article mentioned: http://blogs.marketwatch.com/encore/2014/04/11/secret-to-retiree-happiness-part-time-work/

          On the crime issue, what I’ve seen suggests that there isn’t a strong relationship between how well the economy is doing and the crime rate. Growing up in poverty does increase the odds of someone being a criminal, along with all the other problems it causes later in life, so in that sense a bad economy boosts crime in the long run, but not in a direct enough way for it to be correlated with the business cycle.

        • the commenter with no name says:

          I’m one of the ones who goes crazy without work, myself – whenever my university dies for summer, my mental health goes down the tubes. I’d take the absolute drudgiest of work for those months if I could get it.

          I also know people who would not only be happier, but *actually contribute more to society* if they were freed from the necessity of work and could just sit around in cafes all day.

          Our civilization is just really bad at allocating the cafe-lifestyle-support resources.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Am I the only one here – ok, am I the second one besides senpai – who wants to end work not only due to larger civilizational concerns but also due to wanting lower-class people to have an absolutely chill and kickass time without bosses or bourgeois moralizing? #utopianpotential #turndownforwhat

      • the commenter with no name says:

        “Moldbug-style” = that fantasy he has where people become enlightened and suddenly un-elect democracy. Kings were popular among the masses in their time so it’s not *totally* fantastical, but come on it’s fantastical. It typifies how I think of Moldbug, because he’s smart but *so blind* in exactly the areas missing to make a breakthrough. (I think of our current host the same way. If only I could fuse bloggers.)

        • Alrenous says:

          That’s an uncharitable reading of Moldbug. The point of bringing it up is to make you realize how fantastical it is, and the point of doing that is to highlight how democracy is treated as a religious end; demodicy is dishonest, nobody cares if it actually works.

        • the commenter with the same name says:

          I am a bit uncharitable towards him at the moment, yeah. I know that’s his point, but sometimes I feel like he seriously hopes for it. I’ll be more charitable and say that maybe his libertarian side hadn’t been exorcised completely, and writing that stuff was part of the exorcism.

        • Alrenous says:

          Fair enough.

          That said, why don’t we hold an election to end all elections? If democracy is really good, isn’t there no threat of the referendum passing? Isn’t it practically necessary, by both scientific and democratic principles, to occasionally check whether the voters still want their vote?

        • Randy M says:

          Voters already have the option of not having a voice in the government. What an election to end democracy would be about is whether they want their fellow citizens to have that ability.
          (which sounds like I am disparaging such a thought, but certainly the argument can be made that it would be an improvement).

        • Gavin says:

          @Altrenous If voters wanted that, in the US a constitutional amendment could accomplish the end of suffrage quite effectively. Just because it’s never been proposed doesn’t mean it’s not an avaiable feature of the system.

          Not to mention, in polls people often don’t support continuing suffrage . . .

  12. Katie Cohen says:

    “I know that talking about genetics and IQ too much makes people mad. And a lot of people have asked me – why do we have to do this? ….
    And one of many answers to this is…”

    Agreed with that answer, and I’m curious about your other answers to this, too.

    • There’s been a fair amount of research which shows that genetics has very little effect on people at the low end of ability (i.e. those that don’t get good teachers, help from their parents, etc), and a much higher effect on people that are at the upper end.

      (Matched with recent reports on this having an effect on music recently:
      http://www.medicaldaily.com/nature-vs-nurture-genes-and-environment-combined-make-great-musicians-290276 )

      What this says, to me, is that genes define the point at which you “top out”, and things start to get much harder. At the bottom end _everyone_ benefits from more help, and it’s only when you reach the elite that you should really be worrying about the effects of genes.

      • Jake says:

        Makes sense. No matter how brilliant someone is, if they don’t get any opportunities they will still have a tough time succeeding, while in a situation where everyone is getting at least the basics success will be more determined by the intrinsic traits of the students.

        So basically people in the upper class should stop worrying so much about getting their kids the best opportunities – beyond trying to be good parents and getting them to a decent school it’s pretty much out of their hands. On the other hand, we should be putting tons of resources into making sure all those poor kids get the basics, since we’re all hurt by all the potential being wasted.

  13. haishan says:

    The question is: are good school districts really that important?

    If going to a good school district is +EV (after controlling for the obvious things that need to be controlled for — parental IQ, parental income, etc.) I suspect it has a lot to do with the network effects of growing up surrounded by other upper-middle-class children of educated professionals and very little to do with teacher quality or anything like that. If I’m feeling pessimistic, I could argue that this is a Bad Thing, because soon technology might make teacher quality obsolete — everyone can learn everything from Salman Khan! — but “who gets to be in the highest-success networks” seems very much a zero-sum game.

    • Paul Torek says:

      Yup, it’s who you rub elbows with, that’s what I said too. But if we’re all learning online, doesn’t that mean we can all participate in high-level discussions if we’re interested? I mean, we could participate in blogs like Slate Star Codex…

  14. Anonymous says:

    Rand Paul, eh?
    *goes and reads Rand Paul’s wikipedia page*

    Mostly what I got from that is he seems to be a Tea Party dude who wants to decrease government spending. I feel nervous about this because I worry that “decrease government spending” is code for “repeal Obamacare”. I’ve seen a lot of articles saying Obamacare is a good idea.

    I would be interested to see a post about why you would be pretty proud to have him as President. : )

    • Matthew says:

      I personally wouldn’t be particularly happy with Rand Paul as president, but I think Scott was talking about willingness to choose philosophical consistency over partisan loyalty, not agreement with his object-level policies. Rand Paul’s non-interventionism in foreign policy definitely defies the predominant strain in the current Republican party. He’s also working to expand voting rights for ex-felons, which serves the interests of justice but not the political advantage of the GOP. Etc.

    • Mary says:

      If that’s what it’s code for, he’s pretty talented, since he was arguing for it for years before Obama was considered a presidential candidate.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      “Decrease govenment spending” has been a popular slogan for decades before Obamacare (or Obama) was heard of.

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      “I’ve seen a lot of articles saying Obamacare is a good idea.”

      All the articles I’ve seen are “no one knows because they keep on delaying implementing it”. The employer mandate alone would be a pretty big millstone and that keeps on being kicked down the road.

      Also, by decrease government spending, the big one for Paul is cutting the size of the military. He is a genuine small government guy, which unfortunately a degree of the craziness that comes with it.

      • Mary says:

        Considering the nightmares of what Obama let be implemented, one has to wonder what a monster the employer mandate will be, to delay it — illlegally.

      • Jake says:

        You should really read more and better articles then.

        Here’s a decent sum-up of of the success it’s been having, with links to a lot more info: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/26/zero-for-six/

        • Anthony says:

          Paul Krugman is not a reliable source. He’s the only major economist who significantly changes his opinions about policy depending on the party in power.

        • Jake says:

          Wow, that is a bad paper. I guess I should cut some slack since it was written by an econ undergrad, but still.

          While I do like the idea of studying how people’s partisanship can induce bias, this is pretty clearly bunk as far as Krugman goes. All of the ‘examples’ given boil down to two things: Krugman being a Keynesian and having different preferences based on where we are in the business cycle, and Krugman having strong preferences about which kinds of government spending are advisable.

          Consider this passage:

          Longer term, the war may well hurt the US. By raising the federal budget deficit, Operation Desert Storm will crowd out some investment in the US economy, which has the lowest saving and
          investment rates in the industrial world. (Krugman 1991)
          BIAS AND BUDGET DEFICITS

          A year later, during the 1992 presidential campaign he changed his tune,
          perhaps to accommodate Clinton policies:

          If a President can save $1 billion through feasible cuts in spending or raise $1 billion by taxing high-income families, should that money be used to reduce the deficit or help repair bridges and finance Head Start? Mr. Clinton’s answer is that investments should have first priority. He’s right. (Krugman 1992)

          The paper takes this as hypocrisy, as opposed to Krugman’s preferences being Investment > Deficit Reduction > Invading Iraq. As someone with these same preferences, it doesn’t seem incredibly hypocritical to me.

        • James James says:

          Jake, Krugman also changes his mind on immigration depending on Democrat Party policy. He was for it, against it, and now he’s for it again. I.e., he is not an economist.

        • Jake says:

          JJ, actually Krugman has been pretty consistent as a conflicted pro-immigrant but anti-immigration liberal.

          Here’s Krugman in 2006:

          “I’m proud of America’s immigrant history, and grateful that the door was open when my grandparents fled Russia.

          In other words, I’m instinctively, emotionally pro-immigration. But a review of serious, nonpartisan research reveals some uncomfortable facts about the economics of modern immigration, and immigration from Mexico in particular. If people like me are going to respond effectively to anti-immigrant demagogues, we have to acknowledge those facts.”

          Here’s him last year:

          “And by the way, immigration, if you aren’t torn about the immigration issue, there’s something wrong with you, because on the one hand it does put some burden on the least skilled, lowest paid native-born Americans. On the other hand, it’s a tremendous boon to the immigrants themselves, who are people also. But there are no moral dilemmas, because the people are here. We’re not talking about allowing a new flood of immigration. We’re just talking about bringing the immigrants who are already here into the American system.”

          You can disagree with Krugman on this or on his other positions, but any supposed ‘partisan bias’ is pretty clearly just the result of him thinking liberal policies are more effective, and thus preferring the party that advocates those policies.

        • James James says:

          “actually Krugman has been pretty consistent as a conflicted pro-immigrant but anti-immigration liberal”
          Yes, but the policy choices he has advocated have changed.

          2006:
          http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990DEFDC1430F934A15750C0A9609C8B63&smid=pl-share
          “Realistically, we’ll need to reduce the inflow of low-skill immigrants. Mainly that means better controls on illegal immigration… We need to do something about immigration, and soon.”

          Now he supports amnesty.

    • James James says:

      “Rand Paul, eh? *goes and reads Rand Paul’s wikipedia page* Mostly what I got from that is he seems to be a Tea Party dude who wants to decrease government spending. I feel nervous about this because I worry that “decrease government spending” is code for ‘repeal Obamacare’. I’ve seen a lot of articles saying Obamacare is a good idea.”

      Anonymous, this blog is too advanced for you and you should not be commenting on it.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I hesitate to give warnings because I should be giving warnings to half the people on this thread but I don’t have the energy.

        Nevertheless, you are the lucky person to receive a warning I am actually giving out. Please avoid comments like this in the future.

  15. Scott, there is a very important number from Warren’s book that you seem to have glossed over. No fault to you – she presents her data on tax burden in a very different way than she presents everything else, and that confuses a lot of people.

    From a paywalled column by Todd Zywicki:

    >In fact, using their own numbers, it is evident that they have overlooked the most important contributor to the purported household budget crunch — taxes.

    >Ms. Warren and Ms. Tyagi compare two middle-class families: an average family in the 1970s versus the 2000s (all dollar values are inflation-adjusted). The typical 1970s family is headed by a working father and a stay-at-home mother with two children. The father’s income is $38,700, out of which came $5,310 in mortgage payments, $5,140 a year on car expenses, $1,030 on health insurance, and income taxes “which claim 24% of [the father’s] income,” leaving $17,834, or about $1,500 per month in “discretionary income” for all other expenses, such as food, clothing, utilities and savings.

    >The typical 2000s family has two working parents and a higher income of $67,800, an increase of 75% over the 1970s family. But their expenses have also risen: The mortgage payment increases to $9,000, the additional car raises the family obligation to $8,000, and more expensive health insurance premiums cost $1,650. A new expense of full-time daycare so the mother can work is estimated at $9,670. Mother’s income bumps the family into a higher tax bracket, so that “the government takes 33% of the family’s money.” In the end, despite the dramatic increase in family income, the family is left with $17,045 in “discretionary income,” less than the earlier generation.

    >The authors present no explanation for why they present only the tax data in their two examples as percentages instead of dollars. Nor do they ever present the actual dollar value for taxes anywhere in the book. So to conduct an “apples to apples” comparison of all expenses, I converted the tax obligations in the example from percentages to actual dollars.

    >In fact, for the typical 1970s family, paying 24% of its income in taxes works out to be $9,288. And for the 2000s family, paying 33% of its income is $22,374.

    >Although income only rose 75%, and expenditures for the mortgage, car and health insurance rose by even less than that, the tax bill increased by $13,086 — a whopping 140% increase. The percentage of family income dedicated to health insurance, mortgage and automobiles actually declined between the two periods.

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB118705537958296783?mod=opinion_main_commentaries&mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB118705537958296783.html%3Fmod%3Dopinion_main_commentaries

    Your point about positional goods is well taken, but taxes play a far larger role in the “Two Income Trap”.

    • Matthew says:

      I don’t understand how those tax numbers can possibly be correct, as either percentages or raw dollar figures — paid child care is tax-deductible, and the 2000s family is spending far more on paid child care than the 1970s family.

      ( Childcare costs have risen much faster than inflation — see second chart )

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I would like credit for in fact multiplying her percentages out and giving the correct dollar-number increase in tax burden – $13,000 – in this post.

    • Ken Arromdee says:

      Todd has some posts at volokh.com that aren’t paywalled:

      http://www.volokh.com/posts/chain_1209323112.shtml

      Also see http://www.volokh.com/2011/07/28/christopher-caldwell-falls-for-the-two-income-trap/ .

      Pretty damning of taxes.

    • Hainish says:

      Posted this elsewhere, regarding the same numbers. I just want to make sure I’m thinking about this correctly:

      The couple’s tax increases by 140% in absolute terms – from $9288 to 22,374. Correct, but the income also almost doubles. All other things being equal, in the simplest scenario, shouldn’t the tax also almost double? (I’m talking in descriptive, not prescriptive, terms.) [Edit–the tax has more than doubled.]

      Mortgage increases from $5130 to $9000. If I’m figuring it the same way I did for tax, this is a 175% increase in absolute terms [Edit – actually a 75% increase]. However, all other things being equal, there is no reason for mortgage to increase this much – they are still living in a single house. (As a percentage of the couple’s income, mortgage should nearly halve, instead of going down just a tiny bit.)

      [Wait, why is Zywickie using numbers for income from a “typical 1970s family” instead of the two couples in the example?]

      • Jake says:

        ” If I’m figuring it the same way I did for tax, this is a 175% increase in absolute terms. ”

        75% not 175%

        • Hainish says:

          Ah, yes, you’re right. New tax is 2.4 times the old tax (140% increase), but new mortgage is 1.75 times the old mortgage (75% increase).

    • Alrenous says:

      Makes it easy to work out why feminism is so popular with the Cathedral. Cui bono?

      The taxes are not a result of higher tax rates nowadays, just a result of the family making more money and so having to give more money

      Makes it sound like taxes are not higher. They are 25% higher, by her words, and 37.5% by her numbers. (Absolute 9% higher.) If taxes had not gone up, it would have single-handedly prevented the trap, giving them an extra $6300 to work with. Sure, that’s still a horrific yearly wage for a full-time employee, but it’s not less than nothing.

      The main thing is this taxation feedback was predicted by anti-feminists before women got the right to work. N.B. – this is an epistemic point and secondly a point about women’s equality in the presence of a government, not really about feminism per se.

      Finally, having a second car for work means you also have a second car for leisure.

      Having a larger house is just plain cool – more room for the kids to play in, if nothing else. Their 70% more in mortgage is getting them about 40% more house.

      Apparently having 140% more government means having a bonus banking crisis.

      • ozymandias says:

        …I’m confused. How does women working lead to higher tax rates?

        • meyerkev says:

          The basic problem is that marginal tax rates suck.

          One year, I made ~$20K. I paid ZERO federal and state income and payroll taxes. (I think you guys actually paid me by $50 or something). So my takehome was $20K. $19K if you really want to throw in sales tax.

          The year before that, I made $28K. And I paid zero income tax (but payroll taxes). So I took home $24-25K.

          The year AFTER that, I made $73K. And I took home $50K. (Also moved from MA to CA. The Taxachusetts thing is WAY overrated. I feel vaguely screwed by the Turnpike, but other than that, best value for money I’ve ever had. No joke.).

          This year, depending on how certain things play out, I’m going to make $160K. (As a result of tremendous one-offs that will not be replicated). And I’m going to keep maybe $100K of that. To wit, my one off check for $42,617 let me keep $23,662 after tax withholdings.

          So my income octupled in the space of 4 years, and my take-home only quintipled. (And my tax bill went HAH!).

          And the basic argument is that:
          * Most People want to be surrounded by upper-middle-class people with upper-middle-class norms and culture (or don’t want to be surrounded by poor people and poor people norms) because they think that their kids will pick up the norms of the surrounding people/kids and this will do good (or bad) things.
          * There’s only a certain amount of upper-middle-class people to go around.
          * Which means that it’s becoming increasingly expensive to get away from the poor people and near the upper-middle-class people. (In effect, this is the non-racist interpretation of Steve Sailer).
          * And so women need to work to make the extra money to afford the giant house surrounded by other people in giant houses with upper-middle-class norms.
          * And when they do so, they dump their families into higher tax brackets. Which sends the tax bill really, really high

          So let’s use my MI job offers of $60K vs. my CA offfers of $100K to fake having a wife who makes $40K.

          So in Door #1, I live in Detroit burbs (ie: Single-income is good enough world). I make $60K/year. I keep $43K. Except my 1300 sq. ft. with matching basement house on a 10K sq. ft. lot is $150K. SO on $60K/year, I pay $17K in taxes, own a nice house, and go on fun vacations. Baseball tickets are $20/pop. Downtown Detroit is surprisingly nice for visiting, the REST of the state is crazy beautiful, and a beer is $3. And then whenever I want to go experience the big cities out east/west, I just take a week off work and go on vacation using my giant piles of money that I’m saving up.

          In Door #2, I live in Silicon Valley. I make $100K/year (aka “I make $60K and my wife makes $40K because we have to afford the house in the upper-middle-class neighborhood world”). I keep ~$62K (CA has slightly higher tax rates than MI). A shitty apartment with a roommate in the burbs is going to be $1300/month for my half. A nice 1 BR 2 blocks from the shitty 1BR is going to be $3500/month in the same burb (and the 2 BR is $5K. So that’s my $100K income right there). And my 6 mile commute is an hour each way because traffic.

          So I make $40K/year more, pay twice as many taxes, only keep an extra $19K, and can’t afford my own apartment. And let’s not talk about the real estate market. Either it’s WELL over a million dollars for a shitty house on a postage stamp lot, or they’re busing in kids from East Palo Alto (Ex-murder capital of America. LOVELY social norms there) in the name of “diversity”. So you have software engineers making $250K/year married to another software engineer who just sold their company who can’t afford a house. I literally have no idea how normal people do it. I know the Hispanics live 10 to a 2BR apartment and the old people are Prop 13/rent-controlled into wealth, but normal people, nope.

          And beers are $7-9/pop. Which given the marginals on those 2 cities means that a beer went from $6 of income to $15.

          Which is why I make 5x what my father (back in the Detroit burbs) makes and live basically the same lifestyle.

        • Alrenous says:

          All modern states tax at or beyond the Laffer limit. On the ground, that limit is set by living expenses plus status upkeep. (Latter often called ‘leisure.’) Having the wife also work merely makes space for taxes to expand, so they do.

          Of course at this point it seems I’m repeating the evidence in theory form. Take my word for it: I believe my theory preceded the data.

          The same thing happens if husbands in general work for more than 40 hours a week. The extra net income is, sooner or later, eaten by taxes.

        • Multiheaded says:

          On the ground, that limit is set by living expenses plus status upkeep. (Latter often called ‘leisure.’)

          I vaguely recall Orwell making some point about how British workers should keep spending on “frivolous” things instead of learning thrift and economy as the “educational” materials of the 30s aimed at them suggested; capitalism, he said, would inevitably seek to cut their living standards as soon as they showed the ability to get by with less and still reproduce their labour power.

          @meyerkev:

          And the basic argument is that:
          * Most People want to be surrounded by upper-middle-class people with upper-middle-class norms and culture (or don’t want to be surrounded by poor people and poor people norms) because they think that their kids will pick up the norms of the surrounding people/kids and this will do good (or bad) things.

          I propose a one-step solution: cut that shit right out, all of it! Destroy white-flight-America’s culture as you know it! Russia’s Gini coefficient is just a little bit lower than America’s, but here only the 0,1% would ever dream of getting away with something like this. This cancer might be spreading (I vaguely recall hearing some fairly disturbing things about social attitudes in Moscow), but this kind of segregation is still more of a sci-fi horror than reality to us.

          And it’s not just the egalitarian cultural norms that are protecting us, it’s the (dangerously dilapidated) backbone of social infrastructure, the path dependency on High Modernist urban planning… There’s all kinds of nasty political shit going on, but I shudder to think of how much deep damage an American rightist could do if allowed to advise policies.

        • Alrenous says:

          Orwell was a pretty sharp dude.

          That said, his bias is showing. s/capitalism/”capitalism”/g. As we can see empirically, it’s the state that does it, not firms. Close enough that I’ll give him the point, though.

          Not that firms don’t try, of course. It’s just that the countervailing envy force is easily the stronger in that contest.

        • Hainish says:

          The actual tax rates (schedules) haven’t necessarily changed. Zywickie is saying that a couple earning a higher combined income pays a disproportionately higher amount in taxes. Of course, unless we have a Ross Perot-style flat tax, that would have to be true. Taxes are progressive.

          Zywickie then claims that this can substitute for Warren and Tyagi’s thesis of competition for housing as a positional good, etc. I don’t think it can because you still need to explain why the same couple is paying almost double the mortgage.

    • Nornagest says:

      In the interest of verification, I fed the given numbers into a tax calculator (running on the 2014 tax equations; I couldn’t find the Seventies ones). I didn’t bother with dependent allowances or any other accounting details, but I did select married filing jointly. Here’s what I found.

      $38700 generates $2445 in federal income tax liability and $2961 in Social Security and Medicare deductions (employee’s half), for a total of $5706 or a bit under 15% of income. This doesn’t include state income tax but I’d expect that to be a thousand bucks or less, depending on the state.

      An income of $67800 is liable for $6810 in federal income tax and $5187 in Social Security and Medicare, for a total of $12516 or 18% of income. Same caveats regarding state tax apply.

      That’s an increase of 120%, but in absolute terms it’s only $6810 plus whatever the difference in state tax is — a much smaller fraction of income. These numbers are lower than the appropriate tax brackets because those brackets apply only to income above the cutoff, not to all income if it comes to a value above the cutoff. Not sure how changing tax rates since the Seventies would affect those values, but this suggests we’d be looking at something between no effect and a modest decrease.

      (As a sanity check, I also fed my own income numbers into the calculator; they indeed generated a number within a few dollars of my actual tax withholdings.)

  16. Charlie says:

    Elizabeth Warren vs. Rand Paul 2016. Imagine a Presidential race when both candidates have very different but very consistent philosophies, and you’d be pretty proud to see your country run by either.

    Rand Paul just seems a politician to me. Like his occasional longing references to the gold standard, which wax and wane along with the Tea Party. Or his ordinary motivated reasoning about global warming.

    In short, what’s so different about Rand Paul?

    • Ialdabaoth says:

      To be fair, Ron Paul seemed like a legitimately impassioned True Believer, but I agree with your assessment of his son.

      • Neil says:

        I know this is just a me too comment on this one but I agree about both Ron and Rand here, even if I disagree with their politics in general. This philosophical grounds conclusion I think is entirely true and rarely expressed in a lot of places.

  17. Douglas Knight says:

    I sure hope this doesn’t do something bad to happen.

    Does Warren actually say that? Could you give a more precise citation?
    Banks losing lots of money and tanking the economy doesn’t sound like the kind of thing Warren would worry about.

    I skimmed Warren’s chapter and it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the rest of the book, but is more about her other set of complaints about debt. The availability of credit could make it possible to bid things up much higher. That fits the book and isn’t what most people mean when they complain about subprime, but she doesn’t seem to talk about subprime in these terms. Instead she focuses on the cost to the individual in isolation. The individual taking on risk does fit the theme of the book; and taking out subprime second mortgages to pay off other debts is something that bridges her concerns in this book with her other concerns. But she doesn’t portray subprime borrowers as taking bad deals out of desperation to get into a good school district or even desperation to reduce their credit card rates, but as people who trusted banks too much.

    This undercuts the suggestion of agency in the description of people bidding up the price of homes in good school districts. I don’t know what, if anything, Warren has to say about the cause of the bidding war, but the first question to ask is whether it is a rational response to (perhaps irrational) beliefs about education or a winner-take-all system, or whether it is just people following some crowd, perhaps miscalibrated about who their peers are, or about how things worked a generation ago.

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  19. jayshap says:

    Great post, and the book sounds worth a read. My opinion of Warren would be substantially increased had it not already been through the stratosphere.

    “Because if it could be confirmed that preschool attendance and expensive school districts had low impact – or even a merely moderate amount of impact – on success for middle- to high- income children, then even in the absence of legal changes that would relax the pressure on everyone to spend more money than they have to get into the best preschools and best school districts.”

    Ehhhhh I’m not convinced. I mean sure, some people somewhere might actually read, absorb, and take to heart that information, but I fear only enough to (for example) cut the preschool waiting list down to 60 people, not enough to actually substantially impact the destructive economic competition. Perhaps this is excessively pessimistic on my part. I am reminded of how popular anti-bacterial handsoaps are, despite the ready evidence of both little gain and potential catastrophic cost of their use.

    • Jake says:

      Cultural shifts based on things like this can happen though. Sure, there’s not going to be some study that comes out and suddenly no one cares about pre-school, but if there was some decent proof that it wasn’t important, that would at least allow a more attentive / rational minority to stop bothering with this whole system. Once some people are doing it, others could get jealous of the smart-seeming young couple down the street who aren’t bothering with pre-school and are instead enjoying the extra $5,000 a year in savings.

  20. Neil says:

    Not a single mention of assortative mating by anyone so far. That would be driving consumption of positional goods more than any other expense related to two-income families.

    This is one of those examples where median is better than average but hardly means a thing. Warren never really looked at things like number of children at different levels of income, education, and so on and neither has this discussion. There aren’t all that many actual “median families” in the United States and huge differences across other lines like race, marital status and so on matter more than attempts to split off a lump of the middle class. (Unfortunately for people worried about only looking at politically correct stuff, including me, the only way to look at the middle class and its trends specifically over a long time period requires looking at the white middle class from decades ago since that was the only sizable middle class population then. That raises the question of what real effect immigrants, nonwhite population growth, global trade and such had on this specific lump of the middle class separate from variance due to economic developments)

    In general, poor families are getting hammered by various economic trends but they are still having plenty of children, at younger ages and with additional confounding factors compared to wealthier families. Neither the average nor the median really represent the distribution of expenses and spending. Even looking at market income is a questionable starting point giving existing other knowledge we have about the US economy.

    Incidentally as someone pretty far to the left I’d have to say, sure, Warren is better than some alternatives but she does not hold great positions overall and the faux-populism she’s generally involved in is pretty annoying. I’d have to agree the atheist libertarian types who are annoyed Rand Paul isn’t one of them and pushes self-serving nonsense are right, on their principles, and the same thing goes with Warren.

    Also, teacher value-added research is complete noise, just nothing of any use at all has been published by anyone right now. Others have shown they essentially spit up a score for teachers at random; at best any study out there right now is capturing what it had as otherwise unidentified individual variation in students independent of teacher quality.

    The difficulty makes sense because of impossible to overcome sample size problems (lots of teachers see fewer than 1000 total students, ever, and breaking down by demographic categories then results in very small sets) and studies looking at aggregate data inanely or being way too small, no good comparisons and control group thinking. Obviously real teacher value exists in a logical sense, but if even if it did matter a lot, most current conflicting information leaning towards it doesn’t, we wouldn’t know with the tools being used right now.

  21. This was not what I expected to hear you say about Elizabeth Warren.

    I lived in Massachusetts for a number of years recently. Warren seemed to have a reputation as an ideologue—by which I mean, once you discounted the opinions of those who could be relied on to beatify any liberal/Democratic candidate and demonize any conservative/Republican one, or vice versa, many of those who were left supported Scott Brown on the basis that he was a moderate and Warren was too extreme. That doesn’t usually happen to Democratic candidates in Massachusetts.

    There was also her well-publicized proposal to set interest rates on federal subsidized student loans equal to the Federal Reserve interest rate, on the grounds that “Wall Street banks – the ones that wrecked our economy – should not be getting a better interest rate on their government loans than young people trying to go to college” [source]. I’m no economist, but I’m pretty sure that’s an apples-and-oranges comparison. And of course it hits several applause lights of 2010s mainstream American liberalism. Even the Boston Globe called it “a bit of political theater”.

    So it surprises me to see you praise her as someone who shares your skepticism of partisan politics. Possible explanations for the discrepancy:
    * Your assessment of Warren is right and my somewhat hazy impression of her is wrong.
    * The book was written when she was a Harvard professor and consequently allowed to have nuanced views about things. Becoming a Senator forced her to become an ideologue.

    I should probably look into this in greater detail sometime. Perhaps I’ll pick up that book.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well. I should have known better than to be happy about anything in politics on the basis of one blog post.

    • Eli says:

      Third possible explanation: the book was written back when the Real Life Situation was in fact less extreme. When the actual economy, actual policies, and people’s actual lives have been driven into extreme conditions, you can expect decency, reason, and moderation to sound more extreme than they otherwise would.

      Notably, the American Overton Window was pushed hard to the neoliberal/libertarian Right ever since Reagan, with a particular intensification ever since Bush got elected (the first time, when he wasn’t actually elected, lol). In fact, it got significantly more right-wing between 2004 and 2012.

      Just as Obama can claim, with a straight face, that a Republican 30 years ago is a Democrat today, likewise a moderate in 2004 is an ardent social-democrat today.

      • Which leftist ideas do you think were mainstream in 2000 but are now considered too far from the center to be thinkable?

        • Jake says:

          I would actually say that since 2000 the Democratic Party has moved slightly to the left, while the Republicans have moved significantly to the right.

          The low point for leftism within the Democratic Party was the 1990’s, when it seemed like we were at the End of History, and the constituency for true leftism was reduced. Since then it’s become more likely that the middle class stagnation of the 1980’s and 2000’s is the new normal, not the 90’s boom, and that we’re much farther from having figured out the optimal social system than we thought. With Elizabeth Warren as perhaps the most prominent example, there is a social democratic movement stirring in the Democratic Party that wasn’t there before.

          On the Republican side of course there has been pretty steady movement to the right, accelerating after Bush left office and they were no longer held back by the need to govern (or whatever it is Bush was doing). For example, as recently as 2000 there were plenty of prominent Republicans who acknowledged that we needed to take action on climate change, while now that group has dwindled to almost nothing.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          See Republican national platforms around the time of Eisenhower.

      • orangecat says:

        Neoliberal, maybe. But libertarian? I must have missed the groundswell of support for limited government and individual freedom between the various wars in the Middle East, mass surveillance of American citizens (and everyone else), bailouts of the banks, takeover of GM, and perpetually increasing government spending.

    • Jake says:

      Your first explanation is correct, you should look into Warren more. The most significant thing to remember is the difference between being partisan and being ‘extreme’ (in the sense of farther towards the edges (sills?) of the Overton Window). Partisanship is what’s really correlated with having poorly thought through beliefs, because partisan people just take the official line of their political party. There is a particular kind of Democratic politician that I see everywhere whose platform is basically “I’m a Democrat, I believe in the stuff Democrats generally believe in.”

      Extremism on the other hand is correlated with people who have thought through their beliefs a bit more, regardless of the correctness of those beliefs, because they have by definition made the effort to not just accept the conventional narrative put in front of them. For example, I would very much expect that the average communist has thought more about their beliefs than the average liberal, as has the average reactionary compared to the average conservative.

      What separates Warren isn’t even so much her policies as it is the fact that she’s willing to back up her wonky statistics with some anger. This makes her incredibly popular on the left, since the reality is pretty outrageous, and anger is called for.

      TL;DR: Ideologue is a way of saying you don’t like someone’s tone, not an objection to their policies.

      • Lesser Bull says:

        That bit about student loans and Fed interest rates doesn’t show any sign of thought. Maybe there’s an argument for it, but her argument is just boob bait.

        • Jake says:

          Hey, when you’re a politician you’ve got to do politics. Lowering the interest on student loans is incredibly good policy, and if contrasting how students get screwed with how solicitous we are of banks helps get it passed, then I’m all for it.

    • Swimmy says:

      I had a similar reaction. I am an economist (well, trained but not working), and to call it an “apples-and-oranges comparison” is not strong enough. It’s like a houses-and-basketballs comparison. I always assumed/hoped she was pandering to a base.

      This post has upped my opinion of her, but as long as she’s doing The Politics I’m probably going to have general negative fellings about her.

    • anon says:

      Ahh, Scott Brown. The moderate republican who knew that it is easy to compromise when your vote doesn’t matter anyway, but managed to remember he was a republican when it meant something.

      At least he had a pretty face?

  22. Carinthium says:

    Asking advice about modafinil. I’m in Australia so the circumstances surrounding that particular drug are a little different. I don’t need to work any harder than I do, but effects on cognitive function of a relatively safe drug are something good to know.

    • drethelin says:

      I find it to be very worthwhile for remedying the effects of tiredness on days when I want to do a lot of fun things but slept poorly or had to get up early. I found it a lot less interesting/useful when I was taking it on a daily basis, plus I suffered the side effects after only a relatively small amount of days. Ideas come more easily and often and I notice myself tweeting more variedly when I’m on it but that’s not something I’ve bothered to quantify. the possible appetite suppression effect is very weak to non-existent for me.

      My girlfriend says it makes me somewhat more supervillainy: prone to monologuing and being clearly manic in a somewhat scary way. Also a lot more talkative in general.

      Modafinil: more convenient hypomania.

  23. Salem says:

    The disappointing thing – and it’s hard for me to tell whether the problem is the book or the review – is the lack of examination of the tax point. You can claim, if you like, that the figures don’t mean an increase in tax rates, but they sure as heck show an increase in taxes.

    Almost half of this family’s extra income is being eaten up in taxes. The amount of tax they are paying has basically doubled. Given that, one would expect them to be enjoying a far higher standard of government services – except that is clearly not the case, and in fact the likes of Warren are constantly complaining about how this or that government agency or programme is “underfunded.” Ultimately this contradiction has to give way at some point. If Warren has a plan to revolutionise the federal government by either 1) cutting the taxes on this family by ~50% while maintaining services or 2) dramatically increasing the level of government services while not raising an extra penny in taxes, then I’ve yet to hear it. In fact, Warren wants to victimise them yet further with tax increases. Why speculate about positional goods (and a comparatively tiny portion of their income) when an expenditure increase more than 3 times as large is staring you in the face?

    This median American family is certainly the victim of a collective action problem. But the housing market, it ain’t.

    • Oligopsony says:

      Almost half of this family’s extra income is being eaten up in taxes. The amount of tax they are paying has basically doubled. Given that, one would expect them to be enjoying a far higher standard of government services

      Not with an aging population, no.

      • Lesser Bull says:

        Which brings us back to the two-income trap. Women working lowers birth rates, no?

        • Multiheaded says:

          FYI, senpai leans antinatalist. He would likely hope that this is the case.

        • Randy M says:

          Is this a nickname for Scott, or another commenter? I’m confused about the relevance.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          No, it’s Oligopsony. The point is they are the two communists around these parts and Multiheaded is indicating Oligopsony’s seniority.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          FYI, senpai leans antinatalist. He would likely hope that this is the case.

          Why would anybody around these parts not hope for a lower birthrate?

        • Multiheaded says:

          Why would anybody around these parts not hope for a lower birthrate?

          Das Herrenvolk, of course!

        • Oligopsony says:

          Both the antinatal and, if you like, “dysgenic” (here referring to empirical differentials between the amount of childrearing done by different classes, which has meaningful effects even if we drop dubious claims about social superiors being natural ones) effects of feminism are stronger in weak doses than in heavy ones, once women get the desire to get out of the Küche but before institutional reforms are made to make that compatible with Kinder. This to some extent means that weak feminism snaps back to patriarchy within a few generations.

          I would also disagree with the implications raised about seniority; Cde. Polytêtes’ thoughts usually only differ from my own in being expressed the more coherently and (this is a euphemism but I mean it with all its positive connotations) candidly, and has the more serious claim to the title (insofar as we aren’t busy tearing down all even voluntary bonds of deferment and submission in our fanatickal hatred of the good, &c.)

        • Multiheaded says:

          It appears that we’re just both socially submissive when in our comfort zone; feels like I’m trying to top you from the bottom into performing a leadership role, and you might be hoping for the same from me. Of course, the first thing we’d both like to command the other is to write more, but that’d be too hypocritical coming from a lazy fuck. Or I could demand you share specific knowledge in an ELI5 format, but I’m too insecure to cut myself out of the signaling opportunity.

          (insofar as we aren’t busy tearing down all even voluntary bonds of deferment and submission in our fanatickal hatred of the good, &c.)

          We could probably both agree, in a not-entirely-playful manner, that Good itself is the enemy, and that the lived praxis of its attainment is what makes the particular instruments of its servants quite so hated. /3edge

    • Fnord says:

      Well, I was hoping to find something like this earlier, but here is is (hat tip Noahpinion).

      Federal revenues as a portion of GDP haven’t changed significantly since the 1950s.

  24. Emily says:

    Only a minority of kids are in households with two married, working parents. Like, less than 40%. Treating this kind of family as typical is kind of a problem.

    First: Looking at married couples with kids over time significantly overstates what’s happening to households with kids because fewer kids grow up in that type of household than used to. Only about 64% of kids lived in those households in 2012, down from 77% in 1980. http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/famsoc1.asp
    Looking at 2-parent families in general: in 1960, 88% of kids lived with both of their parents, in 2012 it was 69%. https://www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/children.html

    Second, only about 60% of married parents with minor children are in households where both work: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/famee.t04.htm

    In some ways the poor and working-class have gotten worse — this decline in two-parent households/marriage, but also in terms of test scores relative to the non-poor. So it’s become more important to get your kids away from their kids.

  25. Eli says:

    Yeeeeesssss, Scott. Give in to your sense of ethics and rationality, and join the social-democratic side! IT IS YOUR DESTINY!

    • Multiheaded says:

      Actually, what I hope for is Scott coming up with some intelligent strategies for his dream technocratic government to deliberate between left-libertarianism and social democracy. He’s still enthralled by technocracy so much that he seeks to describe non-technocratic things in its terms – note how many religious[1] reactionaries or right-wing Nietzscheans in the world are nothing like his ideal type in the Reactionary FAQ, and so his model of Reaction is just a bunch of particularly evil technocrats – but he clearly wishes to technocratically implement only non-awful things. For a commie like me, that’s a step up from most people with his attitude towards politics! I’m predicting a post synthethizing his manifesto with the number-crunching stuff like here.

      [1] Actually religious, not merely “approving of some Catholic activities”.

  26. stubydoo says:

    I more accurate title for the book would have been “The Higher Tax Trap”

  27. Michael says:

    You realize that the BHL article is satire? See the evil twin meme here and here.

  28. BeoShaffer says:

    Your reminded me of several posts by Mr.Money Mustache most notably this reader case study about a wife who was working a job she hated even though it had a negligible effect on her families finances
    http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/04/04/reader-case-study-working-a-crappy-job-for-nothing/

  29. pwyll says:

    So we decided traditional gender roles were sexist, and that women should work and be just the same as men. Except that then there was no one to take care of the children, so most of the increase in income was swallowed up by childcare costs. Anything left over was put into positional goods that rose in price just as quickly as incomes increased. And that change also left the family with less flexibility, and made it more vulnerable to financial shocks.

    We also decided that traditional policing and home lending was racist, and that any prejudice on the part of the cops or the bankers was not to be allowed. So whereas before, both rich and poor neighborhoods were relatively safe and affordable, now the only way to live somewhere safe is to pay dramatically more for a house in a neighborhood that’s expensive enough to make it unaffordable for most of the criminal underclass.

    Finally, we decided that all human beings had the same intellectual potential, and so everyone should go to college. We also decided that using cheap hiring tests, instead of expensive college credentials, was racist. So now everyone is required to waste years of their lives, and incur a staggering debt load, for a college degree that is increasingly useless and at the same time increasingly expensive.

    These three decisions have together had synergistically bad effects; people (especially women) work more, have less flexibility, have to pay much more for housing and education, and find it much harder to get married and have families.

    It’s fascinating to see such a damning indictment of leftist policy choices… being made by a leftist.

    • Andy says:

      It’s fascinating to see such a damning indictment of leftist policy choices… being made by a leftist.

      I see Scott more as advocating for a Better Leftism though. Like for the first point, it doesn’t matter who stays home with the kids, it could be the mother or father or gaydad or gaymom or a designated childcarer in a poly collective, as long as someone raises the kids, and it should go to the best individual for the task, rather than “the person with a vagina does it because it’s always been that way.”

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        “the person with a vagina does it because it’s always been that way.”

        That’s not a very charitable interpretation of the traditionalist position. What if, due to quirks in biology and socialization, the best individual for the task turns out to be a woman in the vast majority of cases? What if making men childcarers in situation where it appears to make sense (nurturing father, higher-earning mother, etc…) nevertheless has the effect of putting stress on the marriages as the women lose attraction to their husbands? What if allowing deviation from traditional gender roles for the tiny number of couples for whom it would arguably be better destroys the Schelling fence on the slippery slope that leads from a sane equilibrium to the mess we have today?

        • ozymandias says:

          I think the factual difference between feminists and you on this point is that feminists believe there are quite a lot of couples who would be better off if they deviated from traditional gender roles, and that there would be even more if we stopped socializing people into traditional gender roles. For instance, at one time a bluestocking would have destroyed her marriage prospects because men were unattracted to intellectual women; now, there are many men who actively seek intellectual women to date or marry. Why do we assume a similar thing could not happen with male childcarers?

        • Andy says:

          That’s a whole lot of “what-ifs” and just-so stories, and nothing in the way of evidence. If I saw strong evidence for that, I’d be willing to modify my position.
          And I was trying to be charitable while also acknowledging that not every person with a vagina is a woman, and not every woman is born with a vagina. And I don’t think you can put a label or a norm on even a slight majority of cases – humans are far too different to make that a sensible option.

          EDIT:

          For instance, at one time a bluestocking would have destroyed her marriage prospects because men were unattracted to intellectual women; now, there are many men who actively seek intellectual women to date or marry. Why do we assume a similar thing could not happen with male childcarers?

          As a man who is strongly attracted to intellectual women, +1 to Ozy. The stigmatization of non-“alpha” males is frankly one of the stupidest and least helpful aspects of patriarchy around, IMO.

        • pwyll says:

          Andy:

          The stigmatization of non-”alpha” males is frankly one of the stupidest and least helpful aspects of patriarchy around, IMO.

          I get the impression that there was a lot less stigmatization of non-”alpha” males back when we actually had a robust, functional patriarchy. The destruction of that patriarchy seems to have led to the current situation where the only two choices for male archetype are “effeminate hipster” or “neanderthal bro”.

          (Furthermore, I, like you, also prefer intelligent women, and feel that if anything women are *more* likely to feel pressure to hide their intelligence for dating purposes now than previously!)

        • Andy says:

          I get the impression that there was a lot less stigmatization of non-”alpha” males back when we actually had a robust, functional patriarchy. The destruction of that patriarchy seems to have led to the current situation where the only two choices for male archetype are “effeminate hipster” or “neanderthal bro”.

          Perhaps, but I still don’t want a robust, functional patriarchy if it would lead to most of my teachers being told to get out their technical teaching and research positions and back into the kitchen.
          (I’m a student of Geographic Information Systems, and over half of the GIS professors at my school are women, most with long experience in the industry – one programmed statistics computers for banks with punch cards!)

          (Furthermore, I, like you, also prefer intelligent women, and feel that if anything women are *more* likely to feel pressure to hide their intelligence for dating purposes now than previously!)

          This is also counter to my experience. Most of the things telling women to suppress their intelligence are patriarchal holdovers. I have never heard anything like “don’t bother your pretty little head about important things” or “girls can’t do math” from a feminist. I have heard them from people endorsing a patriarchal viewpoint, and any viewpoint that says that women like my teachers or my mother (an aerospace engineer) “can’t do math” or are “bluestockings” or “unladylike” for doing math is not a viewpoint I will ever embrace.

        • Oligopsony says:

          IIRC people at happier in their marriages than they used to be and people in more feminist relationships were happier than those in more traditional ones, though of course one could come up with a number of confounds.

          (It’s also possible I’m engaged in motivated reasoning because I just find traditional gender roles unappealing. If they were the only option I’d just drop out, and I suspect I’m far from alone there.)

        • Andy says:

          (It’s also possible I’m engaged in motivated reasoning because I just find traditional gender roles unappealing. If they were the only option I’d just drop out, and I suspect I’m far from alone there.)

          Ditto. Even though I’m generally the more assertive in my current relationship, the notion that that’s the Only Way It Should Be just gets in my craw sideways.

        • ozymandias says:

          pwyll, I am very surprised by the claim that in the nineteenth century West intellectual women were considered more attractive than they are today. (Of course there are patriarchies in which intellectual women were considered attractive– the hetairai of ancient Greece spring to mind– but they seem less common.) In my reading of authors such as Mary Wollstonecraft and Margaret Fuller, it is a common argument that women are only dumb because men think dumb women make better wives and are repulsed by smart women, and it seems unlikely those noted female intellectuals are making it up.

          I am pro-traditional-gender-roles in my specific case because I would get to be a shaman and I think I would be the world’s awesomest shaman.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          “I am pro-traditional-gender-roles in my specific case because I would get to be a shaman and I think I would be the world’s awesomest shaman.”

          << one of the greatest things I've ever read. Thought you should know.

      • pwyll says:

        Just to clarify, when I said “being made by a leftist”, I meant Elizabeth Warren, not Scott. I get the impression that Scott tries very, very hard to transcend political labels, and succeeds more than most who attempt it.

    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      so most of the increase in income was swallowed up by childcare costs

      No only around $3000 per year was swallowed up by childcare costs.

    • Oligopsony says:

      yo Multi if we’re playing TFT does that imply we should start referring to milquetoast conservatives as NRx until the madness stops

      • Andy says:

        I’m not sure this comment is in the right place?

      • Multiheaded says:

        They occasionally manage to do that on their own. I once saw an unironic tweet praising David Brooks as a subversive intellectual rebel who has infiltrated the heart of the Cathedral.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Should I reserve the term ‘leftist’ for people/ideas left of the US’s current Overton window, rather than using it on things left of political center? Or in accordance with some other definition? If this is a serious preference, I’m happy to respect it.

        • Oligopsony says:

          It’s not serious in the sense of being a big deal but I do get regularly confused when it’s used inclusive of our host, Barack Obama, and so on. I guess my implicit operational definition would be left of Western European Overton, or maybe left enough to no longer qualify as liberal, but I’m in no position to start making demands!

    • Jake says:

      It’s funny, since most of the reactionaries I’ve read anything about have been generally pro-technology, I hadn’t thought much about how much better a match the ideology is for Luddism

      These arguments strongly remind me of arguments made against scientific progress – “Oh, this technology had an unintended side-effect! Guess we should scrap the whole thing and go back to the old way of doing things.”

      Gender liberation involves a significant reordering of our social structure, and like every other thing that’s over happened, not every consequence has been positive. However, compared to most other things people have ever done, gender equality has been a pretty unambiguous improvement, and is most definitely here to stay.

      Let’s say that on average women turn out to be more suited to being a housespouse and men to being a provider- can’t we still just leave decisions about who works to the couple and the market? If there are real genetic differences they will play themselves out and women will choose to stay home by their own accord. If there aren’t then trying to force it is a huge mistake.

      I’m not even sure how to respond to the claim that crime has been increased by an attempt to combat racism. The data certainly doesn’t seem to support this view. Violent crime in the US rose steadily starting in the 1960’s, peak in the early 1990’s, and has been declining since. Hardly the picture you’d see if the main factor in crime rates was a shift in the direction of ineffective anti-racism policies.

      Similarly for your point about college, there isn’t really any evidence that increasing attendance has been the primary cause of increasing tuition. Tuition has increased far faster than attendance, and without regard to several periods of fairly stable attendance rates in recent decades (which mostly correlate with periods when the economy’s doing well and people decide to work rather than go to school)

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        It’s funny, since most of the reactionaries I’ve read anything about have been generally pro-technology, I hadn’t thought much about how much better a match the ideology is for Luddism.

        Depends on the branch. You are more likely to find luddite sympathies among the ethno-nationalists or the theo-nomists than among the techno-commercialists.

        Let’s say that on average women turn out to be more suited to being a housespouse and men to being a provider- can’t we still just leave decisions about who works to the couple and the market? If there are real genetic differences they will play themselves out and women will choose to stay home by their own accord. If there aren’t then trying to force it is a huge mistake.

        You mean like the middle of last century, when it wasn’t exactly illegal for women to work outside their homes? If, come tomorrow, all affirmative action and anti-discrimination laws were eliminated, and then it turned out that in short order couples and market drifted back to the old equilibrium… would you be willing to accept that outcome?

        • Andy says:

          It sure wasn’t illegal for women to work outside the home, but for the vast majority, the available jobs were pretty much limited to menial labor unless a woman was middle or upper class, in which her place was in the job unless she was quite special.
          IF it was possible for a woman to become an engineer or a statistician or a cartographer (Like a chief cartographer of Los Angeles during the early 20th century) regardless of social class, and could be assured of respect for her accomplishments and not her gender – ie the liberal-feminist dream world, and let’s throw in a guaranteed basic income so people are not motivated to take jobs by economic desperation – and women still choose to become homemakers for provider husbands, I would concede the point.
          But I sincerely doubt that it would drift entirely back to the Cult of Domesticity. Women, as a population are too diverse (as are men) for any single hard-and-fast outcome to be predicted across all or even a majority. I suspect my mother would still be an engineer, and my teachers would still be teachers and cartographers and researchers.

        • Jake says:

          I would be willing to accept that outcome, but I think it’s fantastically unlikely that that would be the outcome, so if I did see us moving in that direction I’d be more inclined to suspect that there were some additional forces at work rather than women all just voluntarily deciding that this whole ‘equality’ thing wasn’t working out.

          For example, on rereading your post I see you’ve posited the removal of anti-discrimination laws. Why? Affirmative Action I understand, since it would be silly to impose quotas if inborn inequalities make some groups just better than others. But anti-discrimination laws? Even if women were less effective workers on average that wouldn’t justify discriminating against above average women compared to similarly competent men, no matter how many of each there are.

          On the other hand, what removing those anti-discrimination laws could do is put an additional pressure on women to stay out of the workplace, reducing their participation below the ‘natural’ rate. This seems like a more plausible mechanism for any potential female exit from the workforce than couples just deciding to go back to one income.

        • pwyll says:

          In reply to Andy:

          It sure wasn’t illegal for women to work outside the home, but for the vast majority, the available jobs were pretty much limited to menial labor unless a woman was middle or upper class

          Weren’t the available jobs for men also pretty limited to manual labor unless the *man* was middle or upper class?

          I know the narrative is that women were always and everywhere horribly oppressed until the ’70s, but I’m growing increasingly skeptical of that assertion: M.G. Miles (female) writes “If he is of Teutonic descent, unusually equal treatment of women is his ethnic heritage, going back centuries.”

          Or, see Steve Sailer on Suffrage vs. Prohibition or Feminist Groundhog day.

          Commenter Athrelon, in the followup thread, asserts “Patriarchy was already quite good at reaping the (relatively small) pool of female geniuses. We had female virtuoso mathematicians and Nobel-quality hard scientists at almost the same rates as we do today.” (I’m curious about what exactly the evidence says on this point.)

          Feminism, and a globally unusual degree of sexual egalitarianism, have been around in western culture for much longer than most people realize.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          While it may be hard to measure “virtuosos” and “Nobel-quality” scientists, it is a simple exercise to count the proportion of women that actually recognized by the Nobel committee. It has remained roughly constant over time. However, it has shifted to medicine. See Sailer. That post is five years out of date, but the only subsequent woman was the one he hinted at, the only one in Chemistry or Physics since 1965, vs four women (five prizes) before 1965.

          As for math, no woman has won the Fields medal, but it is not awarded as often as the Nobel. Also, its age rule is biased against late bloomers, which may include women, such as Joan Birman, who raised children before getting her degree. Athrelon is referring to Emmy Noether (1882-1935), very clearly the best female mathematician in history.

        • pwyll says:

          Thanks for the followup; I linked to your comment in the other thread.

      • Anthony says:

        Let’s say that on average women turn out to be more suited to being a housespouse and men to being a provider- can’t we still just leave decisions about who works to the couple and the market? If there are real genetic differences they will play themselves out and women will choose to stay home by their own accord. If there aren’t then trying to force it is a huge mistake.

        Feminists are very much against leaving decisions like this to the couples or the market. The feminist shaming of stay-at-home mothers is a major issue within feminism, and most of the pushback against I see takes a rather apologetic tone – as if wanting to stay home was a betrayal of principles.

        The legal side of feminism has been steadily campaigning against market outcomes, such as women’s lower preference for work over childrearing leading to full-time women workers making 23% less than men. (Though if feminists were consistent about this, they’d be pushing Reaganomics, as the percentage fell from 41% to 29% during Reagan’s terms in office. Most of the fall from 29% to 23% happened during W’s presidency.)

        • Jake says:

          What could you possibly mean by that? Yes, the feminist movement in general has something of a bias in favor of women working since the modern feminist movement was in large part formed to demand the right to do so and not be stigmatized or discriminated against. But what are you saying they have done to hurt women who stay home, other than work to give them more options?

      • pwyll says:

        In reply to Jake:

        However, compared to most other things people have ever done, gender equality has been a pretty unambiguous improvement, and is most definitely here to stay.

        Citation needed. See my reply above to Andy about how feminism, and “gender equality”, didn’t just spring into being in the ’70s. How is a regime where women work more, have fewer children than they desire, and are more likely to end up alone, an “unambiguous improvement”?

      • pwyll says:

        Jake, a couple more things on:
        (a) Crime: I think Foseti‘s take is interesting.
        (b) The cost of education: there have been two trends paralleling the rising cost of education: one is increasing enrollment, and the other is rising amounts of student aid. Both are probably contributory factors. Furthermore, a high-end education is a positional good – if you go to Harvard, someone else can’t – and positional goods are, as Scott has detailed, uniquely susceptible to runaway price inflation caused by status competition. (Which leaves everyone involved worse off.)

        • Douglas Knight says:

          It is important to distinguish high school and college. Their budgets have gone up at the same rate, about 6% ahead of inflation, but for completely different reasons. Colleges have to make explicit decisions to raise tuition. But high schools have not raised their land taxes, a fixed percent of value, but passively followed the dramatic rise in real estate.

          And neither student aid nor increasing enrollment have much to do with the price of high school.

  30. T. Greer says:

    1. Did anybody else read this and thinlk, “Here is a strong economic case for homeschooling”?

    • Paul Torek says:

      Yes. I also thought (sarcastically), “so does this mean Warren will support school privatization?” And then Scott notes that her book supports vouchers. Derp. I’d like some ketchup, please, so I can eat my words.

      • Jake says:

        Vouchers have been tried in a number of places, and seem to be neither as disastrous as opponents claim they would be, nor the panacea some supporters view them as. Either the government continues to impose standards on these schools, in which case nothing really changes, or they don’t and we start seeing schools teaching creationism, or just running away with the money. Or you can land somewhere in between and get both, as in the current situation in Louisiana.

    • Matt C says:

      I did think of us–we live in a lower middle class neighborhood with mediocre schools, and we homeschool. Having an adult at home full time makes life easier in lots of little ways, too.

  31. Joe Shmoe says:

    I’ve been archive gorging here but this is my first comment. (Long-time listener; first-time caller!)

    I’m skeptical of Warren’s claim that foreclosures tripled from (whenever) to 2004. If you look at the Fed’s data on mortgage delinquencies, you see, if anything, a general fall in delinquencies up to 2004. Soon *after* that, it begins to rise.

    Now maybe Warren was indulging in some legerdemain, and/or it could be an artifact of the distinction between delinquencies and foreclosures. E.g., there could have been a change in bankruptcy laws that led to more foreclosures on delinquent loans.

    Finally, at least half of foreclosures in the post-2004 mortgage turmoil were on second homes, IIRC. So the trope of people being booted out onto the streets can be misleading. It’s possible that the same thing was true in the pre-2004 period.

  32. Alrenous says:

    @Jake

    This is a demonstration of a hack. I’m responding to this comment.

  33. anon says:

    There’s a new comprehensive study on housing prices out. Gives a bigger estimate than $4K.

    http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/research/state_nations_housing

  34. James James says:

    So what you’re saying is that it would be great if discrimination by things other than money wasn’t outlawed?

  35. Vadim Kosoy says:

    Something in this theory doesn’t add up in my brain. If the middle class is worse off because of spending money on houses at luxurious locations, who is getting all of this money? Rich landowners? However, if the middle class is busy buying houses, shouldn’t most of the houses become owned by the middle class pretty soon? Or is the entire effect due to population growth which requires building new houses so the winning party is the construction industry?

    • Randy M says:

      You overlook debt & interest. Banking/financial sectors were doing quite well (as was construction) until the foreclosures started.
      A lot of poeple turned out to be homeowners in name only.

  36. Vamair says:

    Would grandparents that are caring about kids solve at least some of these issues?

  37. Troy says:

    Nice post, Scott. I’m a bit late on this one, but I don’t think anyone’s addressed a point in Warren’s argument that worries me. You summarize her as saying:

    If families now have twice the income of families in the 1970s – who themselves were usually pretty financially secure and happy – then people should be really secure and rich now, right? But Warren meticulously collects statistics showing that the opposite is true. Home foreclosures have more than tripled in the past generation. … Car repossessions doubled in the five years before the book was published. Bankruptcies have approximately quintupled since 1980. Over the same period, credit card debt has gone from 4% of income to 12%, and average savings have gone from 10% of income to negative.

    The unstated assumption here seems to be that this is a middle-class (upper middle class?) phenomenon, that the same families who are trying to send their children to the preschool equivalent of Harvard are having their homes foreclosed upon and their cars repossessed. This just doesn’t seem plausible to me. I would guess that credit card debt, bankruptcies, car repossessions, and home foreclosures are all much more common among the poor and lower-class than among the kinds of Americans Warren is profiling.

    Here are two alternative possible explanations of the shifts Warren cites: (1) More immigrants (mostly from Latin America) in the past 30-40 years have brought more poor people into this country, people who are more likely to have the kinds of problems above. (2) More lower-class Americans who traditionally wouldn’t have been able to, say, buy a house or get a credit card, are doing so, and then don’t successfully pay off their debt (whether because they don’t make enough or are financially irresponsible).

  38. Pingback: Lightning Round – 2014/07/02 | Free Northerner

  39. Phil Goetz says:

    I’ve been saying pretty much the same thing for years, though with less data and a simpler argument:

    – In 1960, very few women worked, and those that did had poor salaries.
    – If we assume that benefits from productivity accrue to the owners of capital rather than to the workers or consumers, we should expect that the result of women entering the workforce will be to increase productivity, and that the owners of capital will capture this productivity gain not by producing more or better goods, but by raising prices.
    – Women entered the workforce mainly in the 1970s; this was also the longest period of high inflation the US has ever had.
    – The purchasing power of a family with two workers in 1990 and later was very nearly equal to the purchasing power of a family with one worker in 1960.
    – This strongly suggests that benefits from productivity accrue to the owners of capital rather than to the workers or consumers.

    A good test of this theory would be to compare historical inflation rates around the world to the rate of women entering the workforce.

    The complication is that people are much better off in terms of small consumer goods. I don’t know what the data say, but the people I know have a lot more stuff now than the people I knew in the 1970s. Inflation occurred almost entirely in housing, college, and medical expenses. This was not well-reflected in the Consumer Price Index, making it appear, when using CPI adjustment for inflation, that Americans were getting better off than they really were.

    Why were the gains from productivity captured by landowners, healthcare, and universities?

    – Doctors developed a spectacularly powerful union, and my best guess is that their dramatic increase in earnings over that period was due to government regulation always enforcing and expanding the monopoly of the doctors’ union. When my father began working in the early 1960s as an engineer, and his brother as a doctor, doctors and engineers made the same amount of money. Now, doctors earn 2-3 times as much as engineers, and surgeons earn 4 times as much. (And before anyone says that rise is to pay for malpractice insurance, read this post showing that typical malpractice insurance bills are only $3000/yr, or $10-$20K/yr for surgeons.)

    Other factors in healthcare account for more of the increase than do doctors’ salaries, but I expect they are all attributable to government regulation. Drug costs obviously are.

    – The rise in college price was due to the doubling in college applicants from, IIRC, 1965-1975, and that was due not to any sudden increase in the prestige of college, but to the sudden increase in government subsidy for college, in the Higher Education Act of 1965. (I suspect you’d see an increase in college attendance after WW2 due to the GI bill, though smaller, because ex-GIs constituted only a fraction of the population.)

    – Warren’s argument might explain why land prices rose, though its relative complexity gives me many bits of doubt.

    If we accept Warren’s argument that housing costs increased due to restrictions imposed by education quality, then the obvious conclusion is that the free market would have distributed gains from productivity equally, but the capital owners in sectors with strong government regulation or subsidies were able to capture all of the gains.

    Alternately, we could conclude that there was inflation in those sectors, and deflation in all others, because those sectors all missed out on increases in productivity. Land doesn’t become more productive; education hasn’t, as far as we know, gotten 3% better per year; technical advances in healthcare have made it less productive on a per-dollar basis. Market sectors with increased productivity can’t capture the gains from productivity, due to competition; those gains are captured by sectors in which increased productivity is impossible.

    The average family may in fact be better off, in that they have more and better consumer goods than they used to. There’s no good way to compare a Playstation 4 to an Etch-a-Sketch and the Rock-em Sock-em Robots. Possibly the biggest gain in quality of life for Americans over the past 20 years has been due to piracy of software, music, and video.

    • anon says:

      1. Have you read Piketty? What’s your impression of his argument?

      2. “If we assume that benefits from productivity accrue to the owners of capital rather than to the workers or consumers, we should expect that the result of women entering the workforce will be to increase productivity, and that the owners of capital will capture this productivity gain not by producing more or better goods, but by raising prices.”

      I don’t understand what you’re saying here. Why would owners of capital raise prices when they’ve increased productivity?

      I like your viewpoint a lot, however. It seems to explain several different things very concisely.

      • Phil Goetz says:

        I haven’t read Piketty. He appears to have written a lot, so you’d need to be more specific about which argument of his you mean.

        “Why would owners of capital raise prices when they’ve increased productivity?” – I skipped some steps. My thought is that increased productivity leads initially to wage increases, but wage increases are always snapped up by producers of things that people need, most notably housing. When I surveyed wages and housing prices across America while job-shopping, I found no advantages to living anywhere–approximately all of the wage increase I would get from working in San Francisco or New York City would be taken back from me in housing costs.

        This calculation is different for people who buy a house; they get some of the productivity gains. People who rent get nothing back when productivity increases in their region lead to their salaries being bidded up.

  40. kings of oslo says:

    What I want to know is what Eliot Janeway was saying about two income families.