Sunday, March 12, 2006


All right, switching gears: Heidi Hartmann was on campus last week to welcome in Women's History Month. I was excited: she is, after all, the author of socialist-feminist classics like "The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism" and "Capitalism, Patriarchy, and Job Segregation by Sex," classics that I spent a good deal of time working through in my grad school days.

So, first I will say that going to her lecture last Tuesday helped put me in a good mood. Not because her talk was particularly upbeat, but because I felt at home with the talk. At the same time, though, I was somewhat surprised and a little disappointed that the talk was mostly a matter of showing us various charts and graphs. Little theoretical or even historical discussion. (R says that's what happens when people go to Washington. Hartmann has led The Institute for Women's Policy Research since founding it in 1987.)

Despite being somewhat disappointed, though, I did take home some useful factoids. For example, while the neoliberals would tell you that the increased productivity of the economy has been good for working people, the numbers tell a different story, especially when the numbers are separated according to gender. Once adjusted for inflation, the income for men since 1970 has been pretty stable. No increases. A few decreases. The overall income for women has gone up (though it hasn't caught up with men's). The reason, of course, is that blue-collar jobs are on the decline, with service jobs on the increase. And those jobs tend to be segregated, with men concentrated in the former, women in the latter.

Even so, as men take on feminized professions, they still make more money in those professions. And while part of the reason is wage and salary differentials, the other part of the reason is that women take more years off from the workforce (to take care of children, for example). European countries tend to provide pay for parental leave. Not so much the United States. Hence, women have a harder time reaching economic autonomy.

And that, welfare reformers, is what needs to be changed. Marriage isn't the answer. Economic autonomy is.

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