October 1, 2009

Female Conformism

You might think that the question of whether mothers of young children should work full-time, part-time, or stay home, would be considered a personal decision dependent upon family and individual circumstances, one which kibbutzers would respect and wish well. But, that's not how it works. Relative to men, women tend to be more conformist. They want to do what other women are doing, and they want other women to do what they are doing.

Hence, there has been a long cold war in the female side of the press between full-time working mothers versus stay-at-home mothers (with part-time working mothers in the middle). Of course, the full-time working mothers control the means of journalistic production, so the battle in the press is one-sided.

Thus, you get the following kind of article that gleans Census data for evidence of who is in fashion.

From the Washington Post:
Census Dispels 'Opting-Out' Notion for Stay-at-Home Moms
Most Stay-at-Home Moms Start That Way, Study Finds
Many Are Younger, Less Educated, Hispanic

By Donna St. George
Washington Post Staff Writer

A first census snapshot of married women who stay home to raise their children shows that the popular obsession with high-achieving professional mothers sidelining careers for family life is largely beside the point.

Instead, census statistics released Thursday show that stay-at-home mothers tend to be younger and less educated, with lower family incomes. They are more likely than other mothers to be Hispanic or foreign-born.

Census researchers said the new report is the first of its kind and was spurred by interest in the so-called "opt-out revolution" among well-educated women said to be leaving the workforce to care for children at home.

"I do think there is a small population, a very small population, that is opting out, but with the nationally representative data, we're just not seeing that," said Diana B. Elliott, a family demographer who is co-author of the U.S. Census Bureau report.

The report showed that mothering full time at home is a widespread phenomenon, including 5.6 million women, or nearly one in four married mothers with children younger than 15. By comparison, the country's stay-at-home dads number 165,000.

Researchers noted that the somewhat younger ages of stay-at-home mothers could partly explain their lower education levels and that less family income would be expected with just one parent in the workforce.

Even so, the profile of mothers at home that emerged is clearly at odds with the popular discussion that has flourished in recent years, they said.

The notion of an opt-out revolution took shape in 2003, when New York Times writer Lisa Belkin coined the term to describe the choices made by a group of high-achieving Princeton women who left the fast track after they had children.

It has since been the subject of public debate, academic study and media obsession. It has been derided as a myth but has never quite gone away in an era when women still struggle to balance work and family and motherhood's conflicts have been parodied and probed in everything from Judith Warner's book "Perfect Madness" to television's "Desperate Housewives" and "The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom."

The census statistics show, for example, that the educational level of nearly one in five mothers at home was less than a high school degree, as compared with one in 12 other mothers. Thirty two percent of moms at home have at least a bachelor's degree, compared with 38 percent of other mothers.

One of the things I'd point out is that in today's U.S., mothers, especially mothers of multiple preschool children (i.e., those most likely to stay at home), are an awful lot more Hispanic, foreign-born, and poorly educated than the mothers whose deliberations are described in such agonizing detail in the New York Times Magazine. In California in 2005, for example, the the total fertility rate for immigrant Latinas was 3.7, compared to 1.6 for American born white women.

The kind of people who subscribe to the New York Times or Washington Post are an ever-shrinking part of the population, although you won't hear about that fact much in the NYT or WP.

What does seem apparent from the Census report is that the historic female shift from the home to the workplace that began after the Baby Boom ran out in the mid-1960s came to an end some time ago, probably about a decade and a half ago.
In 1986, 59 percent of married couples with children under 18 had both spouses in the labor force. This percentage rose to 68 in 2000 and was slightly lower, at 66 percent, in 2007.

In case you were wondering:
There was an increase in the percentage of couples where only the wife was in the labor force. This was a small percentage of couples but rose from 2 percent to 3 percent from 1986 to 2007.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

38 comments:

Grizzlie Antagonist said...

The phenomenon that you describe cuts across other issues, as well. I remember Dr. Joyce Brothers writing an article describing a demographic survey on women's attitudes towards abortion.

I don't know exactly where her data came from or what controls were used by the source of that data, but according to Dr. Brothers, women who were pro-life were -- ah -- less educated and had lower self-esteem, etc. etc. than those who were pro-choice.

Of course, pro-life women AND men are more likely to be living on a blue-collar income and therefore more subject to personal and financial reversals, are more likely to be Catholic with all of the angst that THAT entails, etc. etc. -- but never mind.

Dr. Brothers's point was that pro-life women were just plain STUPID and if a woman didn't want to be STUPID, she'd better not become one of them.

But her advanced degree made it possible for her to color that neener-neener taunting with flowery academic prose.

It's a similar tactic here that is being used to deride SAH moms.

As an aside, Dr. Brothers has opined that women are biologically superior to men because - ah - their survival rate is better at surviving shipwrecks.

The buoyancy of the female physique is well known -- body fat floats and being born with two built-in floaters doesn't hurt either, under those circumstances.

But shoot, giving up one's life jacket or place on a lifeboat to a woman on a sinking ship may not buy as much respect as it did in the days of the Titanic.

Dr. Brothers also once wrote a book about the grieving process after the death of her husband. But I still feel that any failure to autopsy him might have led to a miscarriage of justice.

Delfin said...

Speaking of immigration, Steve, have you ever examined the "autism caused by immigration hypothesis"?

AL said...

Most of this is not as puzzling as the Post article makes it out to be. Lower educational levels result in less earning power, which means it's less likely the mother's after-tax income will be high enough to justify the added costs associated with both parents working (day care, cleaning lady, extra car, etc.). Added fertility drives these costs up further if day care charges by the head. I think it's a decision frequently based on these straightforward economics.

I suppose that makes it much less interesting (and empowering!) than full-time working mothers who are members of the press might like it to be.

Anonymous said...

Working mothers have unhealthiest children, study finds | Society | guardian.co.uk

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/sep/29/working-mothers-child-health

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brothers also once wrote a book about the grieving process after the death of her husband. But I still feel that any failure to autopsy him might have led to a miscarriage of justice.

Or, maybe he took the only means of escape available to him, poor bastard...

Black Sea said...

The reality is that it's tough, tiring, and not a lot of fun to raise kids in a home where both parents work full time. At least, that was my experience last year when my wife re-entered the workforce. In the fall, she worked full time, in the spring, she switched to part-time, and in the summer, she went back to being a stay-at-home mom. What we lose in income, we gain in sanity and, I hope, a more orderly and serene environment for our kids, who need to deal with parents who aren't exhausted, frustrated, and distracted at the end of the day.

A lot of the high-income career mothers who stay on the job rely on the dirty little not-so-secret expedient of cheap labor in the form of nannies, maids, and cooks. This also is a luxury not available to lower-educated, working class moms, and another reason why such moms are more likely to stay home.

Jeff Burton said...

Another datum to support your thesis would be the recent imbroglio over this article extolling the pleasures of motherhood and hinting that feminism's Spartan attitude toward said institution might be a little extreme.

Anonymous said...

The old-fashion term is, "Women are submissive" and yes they are submissive. If her father is a weak man, a woman will most likely submit to the ruling regime of her society.

As a SAH mom, I personally have never given much thought to educated, working mothers. It's definitely not true the other way around. I don't even care enough to understand their angst; I'm only concerned if and when it sounds like they're agitating for policies (or buttering people up for when they do agitate in the future) that will raise my husband's taxes and take away what belongs to me and my children to fund their choices.

Anonymous said...

I did more thinking about your post.

I was driving when I heard a news clip about this and just rolled my eyes and didn't give it another thought until this post.
I can honestly say that I can't ever recall having a conversation with other SAH moms about working vs. non-working. The only time I find myself discussing it is when others who are part of a working duo, men and women, broach the subject.
If I had to make an analogy, it would probably be this: black women in America obsess over white women, but white women never give one iota of thought to black women as competition. It's not out of meanness or spite, of course. It can be shocking to a white woman how much she is thought about and despised by women of color. Similarly, my choice to stay home is so taken for granted as being right and superior, that I just don't think about it or the women who do differently.

Nothing against black women, a virtuous black woman is worth far more than a beautiful skank in my book. Some men genuinely prefer their looks and I don't think less of them for it.

Anonymous said...

Never underestimate the power of fully functional female conformity, but there are also network effects:
staying home with the kids is lots more pleasant if everyone else is doing it, so you can socialize and swap chores, etc. Conversely, if everyone else in your neighborhood is working, you can share trips to the daycare and events are planned around working hours.

Adam said...

As to the "lower educational levels":

Could it possibly be that women who get married and who plan to stay at home are less motivated to get a degree? Having a degree is part and parcel of having a career, so it seems a little odd to brag that careerist women are more likely to have one.

Or maybe this is the proverbial thing where high-income men--who can afford to support a wife--don't want a woman who wants to compete with them educationally?

Grizzlie Antagonist said...

Remember folks, the title of this particular thread is "female conformism".

And the point of the original article is not whether working women do or don't make the best mothers so much as it is about the bitterness that women often feel towards other women who don't make the same lifestyle choices.

Anonymous said...

"Thirty two percent of moms at home have at least a bachelor's degree, compared with 38 percent of other mothers."

In other words, if you just look at college-educated women, the proportions are about the same. These are the key data in the article. Many women who HAVE career opportunities aren't exercising them.

So much for "debunking the opting-out myth".

The "stay-at-home loser" meme is pure spin, created by mixing in a different class of stay-at-home mothers, those who lack the skills or credentials to get a decent foothold in the workplace.

intellectual pariah

greenrivervalleyman said...

I am the proud breadwinner to a U.S.-born, white stay-at-home mom, so I am happy to say I defy this pattern. Though we are both happy to have this lifestlye, I must say it is not for the financially faint-of-heart, and that part of me is already planning for the day when all the kids are in school full-time and we can enjoy the luxury of a second income.

Unfortunately life is more expensive than it was even 20 years ago, with lots of unheard-of luxuries now necessities. Case in point:

* cell phones: $80/month = ~$1000/year
* cable TV: $50/month = $600/year
* Internet: ~$30/month = ~$400/year

That's $2000 of after-tax income, equal to the yearly contribution limit of an education savings account!

Justin said...

Any woman who doesn't want to stay home and personally raise her own children is defective. Why even have kids if you don't want to, you know, like, BE with them???

No doubt they will look back on our generation as a time of rapid human evolution, a period of temporary chaotic insanity, before the liberals bred themselves out of the gene pool.

Now that breeding is a choice, in a few generations, all that will be left are women with strong maternal instincts. The women without them will simply disappear from the gene pool. Thank God.

silly girl said...

Sure would be nice to have disaggregated data.

What percent of educated white women aged 25-35 are stay home moms?
What percentage of all children live in those homes?

What percent of teen hispanics are stay home moms?
What percentage of all children live in those homes?

greenrivervalleyman said...

Understand the female need for acceptance and you will have conquered a major citadel of her mind. I have been taught this lesson many times throughout my life, by my mother, girlfriends, etc. The answer to Freud's question of "What do women want?" couldn't be simpler. The overwhelming majority want (in Sex & the City's parlance) to be "fabulous"- to have the admiration and envy of the best sort of people.

Or to quote an example as far from Sex & the City, Roissy, or anything else to do with America's postmodern, coastal fleshpots as possible:


I want my son a man like everyone else, nothing more, nothing less... Let him marry a nice young girl from a respectable home- with a dowry; let him be a liberal provider, have children, and then we'll all go out together every Saturday to the promenade- grandma, children and grandchildren- so that everyone can admire us.


-- Mary, mother of Jesus, in The Last Temptation of Christ

Anonymous said...

autism caused by immigration hypothesis

I read that article many years ago, and was glancing back through it and noticed that most of his links are now dead.

In particular, he seemed to be drawing on a wealth of information at something called "laboratoryofthestates.com" which no longer exists [or at least it's been grabbed by domain squatters since then].

Does anyone know about the database that used to live at "laboratoryofthestates.com" - has it been absorbed into some proprietary fee-only service?

Anonymous said...

If one girl likes you, they all like you. If one hates you, you're regarded with suspicion by them all.


On one course I did in my early twenties I had to learn in a female dominated environment.

I got on really well working with the first group, and we all got high marks so it was productive.

Then groups changed and I worked with another group of girls which included what I would now call the "alpha female".

She had no social skills, as much as a woman can have no social skills.

She was heavily built, but not fat so she wasn't unattractive. She was not pretty, but her sidekick was, but had very arty 'gypsie' dress sense, which could have been mistaken for being fashionable. She probably had more money than most of the other girls.

Anyway, she was the archetypal sneering, arrogant, feminist, bigoted, liberal, 'I'm too good to be in any way associated with you because you're a self-confident man', kind of female. That was before I had said anything. (I'm shy, I don't always say much).

My great ideas were totally ignored in this group and the work sucked. I didn't have this trouble with the first group. She was a completely different animal. I'm convinced she was out to get me and she was probably out to get everyone else too - that's why she was the alpha female.

The point being: soon after I began working in her group (because we worked in the same rooms) my friendship built up with the other girls from the earlier group turned cold - they no longer said 'hi' to me in the mornings, and such.

That might be because we were now in different groups but we were working in the same room so there was always chatter between groups.

I'd done nothing other than be put in the same group as this 'alpha female' who sidelined me.

Clearly when we first met their opinion of me was based on who I was. Then they updated their opinion of me based on how the alpha female treated me. That contributed to who I was too.

Women are incredibly fickle... sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

Anonymous said...

hey GA how'd the grizzlies do this year?

"Relative to men, women tend to be more conformist. They want to do what other women are doing, and they want other women to do what they are doing."


you forgot to add that they want men (and boys) to pay for whatever they're doing, while simultaneously presenting as Independent Victims

right now what women are doing is consolidating their matriarchies across the western world, and spreading the Hissy Homeland to the Middle East and Africa

"It's a Woman's Nation!"

-- Maria Shriver, announcing what everybody already knows, but must not say

women all belong to the same "union" as an old taxi driver once observed

Anonymous said...

Kibbutzer? Sounds like someone that lives on a kibbutz. I think you meant kibitzer.

John Seiler said...

"There was an increase in the percentage of couples where only the wife was in the labor force. This was a small percentage of couples but rose from 2 percent to 3 percent from 1986 to 2007."

I expect we'll see a slew of articles reading: "Major shift: Stay-at-home dads increase by 50%."

Melykin said...

Now that breeding is a choice, in a few generations, all that will be left are women with strong maternal instincts. The women without them will simply disappear from the gene pool. Thank God.

-------------------

I don't know about that. I don't think Mexican woman or Mulsim women have any more maternal instinct than European women. (Maybe less, in anything.)

Yet they continue to have huge families for some reason, while women of European decent tend not to.

keypusher said...

Nice post.

Sure would be nice to have disaggregated data.

What percent of educated white women aged 25-35 are stay home moms?
What percentage of all children live in those homes?

What percent of teen hispanics are stay home moms?
What percentage of all children live in those homes?


Exactly. To paraphrase our host, the author of the article has no clue how much more common poor Hispanic moms are than people like her.

Also, there tends to be a less than total division between SAH and working moms. I knew a couple of extremely able foreign service officers who got married. After they had kids, the woman stepped off the career track and began working part time. So she didn't leave the paid workforce altogether, but she certainly "opted out" to a significant degree. This seems pretty common.

Anonymous said...

The kind of people who subscribe to the New York Times or Washington Post are an ever-shrinking part of the population, although you won't hear about that fact much in the NYT or WP.

Actually, this fact is fairly well covered, in the New York Times at least (e.g., in Frank Rich's weekly column). We are constantly being reminded that demographic change is going to have a huge impact on America. And the thing is, you can tell they are really looking forward to it!

Grizzlie Antagonist said...

-----Dr. Brothers also once wrote a book about the grieving process after the death of her husband. But I still feel that any failure to autopsy him might have led to a miscarriage of justice.

Or, maybe he took the only means of escape available to him, poor bastard...-----


Ah, there's that possibility too, of course.

Grizzlie Antagonist said...

-----hey GA how'd the grizzlies do this year?-----

Well, they had a winning season, which is rare, but they also finished behind the Sacramento River Cats, which is frequent and constant.

Who is the anonymous poster addressing me, may I ask?

The familiarity of the address suggests that it's someone with whom I had contact on Usenet.

----- women all belong to the same "union" as an old taxi driver once observed-----

Undoubtedly true, though on occasion, wildcat strikes arise.

FeministX said...

Women are more conformist than men, but the bulk of men are highly conformist. Women are by no means identical to one and other. Even for extreme conformists, the differences might be more nuanced but they are always individual in some way.

There are plenty of male tools out there. Happily conformist they are.

This data doesn't tell us a whole lot. More education correlates with less children. Those staying at home with children are the ones having children, therefore they are less educated.

Grizzlie Antagonist said...

-----Actually, this fact is fairly well covered, in the New York Times at least (e.g., in Frank Rich's weekly column). We are constantly being reminded that demographic change is going to have a huge impact on America. And the thing is, you can tell they are really looking forward to it!-----


Interesting. Which would be more tolerable:

1) a futuristic United States of America that has entirely degenerated into a Third World country (due to the influx of large numbers of low IQ immigrants) -- but which also doesn't include either the New York Times or the Washington Post or

2) a futuristic United States of America with a manageable number of low IQ immigrants but in which the New York Times and the Washington Post and other mainstream media outlets still maintain substantial influence over what constitutes respectable public opinion?

Anonymous said...

It just looks like another bulletin from the front in the long demographic defeat. It's not in the report, but we know from other census reports that Hispanic women have younger children than white women. We also see, not surprisingly, in the "Age of Youngest Child" section that women whose youngest children are under 5 are much more likely to stay home than those whose youngest children are over 5 years of age. We also know that Hispanic and black women are less educated, that education correlates to earning power, and that people respond to incentives. In other words, much of this is telling us by sundry proxies a bunch of things we already knew, or ought to have known. I would, as another poster wrote, be curious to see data disaggregated by age of child, race, educational attainment, etc. It would be nice to see trend data, too, but perhaps it doesn't exist.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Which would be more tolerable:

1) a futuristic United States of America that has entirely degenerated into a Third World country (due to the influx of large numbers of low IQ immigrants) -- but which also doesn't include either the New York Times or the Washington Post or

2) a futuristic United States of America with a manageable number of low IQ immigrants but in which the New York Times and the Washington Post and other mainstream media outlets still maintain substantial influence over what constitutes respectable public opinion


2 will always lead to 1.

Anonymous said...

"Now that breeding is a choice, in a few generations, all that will be left are women with strong maternal instincts. The women without them will simply disappear from the gene pool. Thank God.

-------------------

I don't know about that. I don't think Mexican woman or Mulsim women have any more maternal instinct than European women. (Maybe less, in anything.)

Yet they continue to have huge families for some reason, while women of European decent tend not to."


The two of you are almost on the right track.

Birthrate in Mexico is now 2.0. So we know they will choose birth control. Immigrants on average are from the very bottom of society, hence the higher birthrate as well as a high abortion rate among the lower classes.

We are in a transition phase.

In the future, generally it will be only those who choose large families who will actually have them. In my neighborhood, I personally know very educated white families with 3-10 kids. Yes, they are religious fanatics. However, a Phd. Geophysicist is still a smart guy even if he is religious and has nine kids. His kids make up for a few barren feminists. It only takes a few generations for those with larger families to replace those with extinction level birth rates. I'm guessing when these little girls grow into ladies, they will trend more traditional than the feminists they replaced. Likewise their brothers are conditioned daily to be leaders in the family and at work. Not all whites are throwing in the demographic towel. The minority immigrants haven't been through the modern birth control crucible that will separate the determined traditionalists from the ones who just didn't figure out how to limit themselves. Extremely liberal birth control and abortion combined with sexually explicit sex ed in schools by definition largely targets the immigrants sitting in those desks. If the population in traditional private/home schools is static as the percentage of white children is decreasing, then you know that a larger share of white kids are in those traditional private/home schools.

silly girl said...

"There was an increase in the percentage of couples where only the wife was in the labor force. This was a small percentage of couples but rose from 2 percent to 3 percent from 1986 to 2007."


Based on friends of mine, my guess is that the guy is a little older and retired. His wife just needs a couple more years to get her retirement, so she still works for medical benefits etc. Her pension is half if she quits before she is 65 or has some X amount of points, etc. I think this could be a baby boomer phenomenon. Since there are so many boomers, even if just a fraction are in this boat for a few years, it could still show up as a couple of percent especially when people are seeing their investments decline in value.

CJ said...

Quoth silly girl:

"Based on friends of mine, my guess is that the guy is a little older and retired."

Good point and I also agree with the rest of your post. I'd add that there must be a not insignificant number of couples where (1) the husband is more than a little older -- like 10 to 25 years older -- and retired and (2) couples where the husband is on workers' comp or SSI or some other disability payment and the wife is working.

MaryJ said...

"Now that breeding is a choice, in a few generations, all that will be left are women with strong maternal instincts. The women without them will simply disappear from the gene pool. Thank God.

----------------------
Sorry to burst your bubble, but most Swipple women actually have at least 2 children and sometimes even 3. I live in Swippledom zero, and that is all I see. Most Swipples are very affluent and they are the only white people who can actually afford to have children in Northern California.

huh? said...

" The overwhelming majority [of women] want (in Sex & the City's parlance) to be "fabulous"- to have the admiration and envy of the best sort of people.

And men, of course, are careless of others' regard and have no ambition to be big fish in small ponds. Doesn't matter to them what the boys think?
Yeah, right.

Just about any of this stuff people have said here about women could be said about men, if in a somewhat different (usually larger) context.

silly girl said...

"Now that breeding is a choice, in a few generations, all that will be left are women with strong maternal instincts. The women without them will simply disappear from the gene pool. Thank God.

----------------------
Sorry to burst your bubble, but most Swipple women actually have at least 2 children and sometimes even 3. I live in Swippledom zero, and that is all I see. Most Swipples are very affluent and they are the only white people who can actually afford to have children in Northern California."

_____________________________

I don't see the contradiction. SWPL chicks with maternal instincts are still women with maternal instincts. SWPLs are conformist. They may conform to something just as irrational as religion, but they do it out of conformity.

MaryJ said...

SWPL chicks with maternal instincts are still women with maternal instincts.
----
That may be true, but their children turn out even more Swipplish than they are.