Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Boycott Forbes

Final update: Michael Noer is awarded the First Class Cootie Award with Viagra Ribbons:

(A new NOTE: The most recent article is back with a response from a female journalist.)
(NOTE: The articles I link to in this post may have been pulled, though it's unclear what's going on)

I think a boycott (or a girlcott) is a valid response to this article by an executive editor of the paper, Michael Noer:

Guys: A word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don't marry a woman with a career.

Why? Because if many social scientists are to be believed, you run a higher risk of having a rocky marriage. While everyone knows that marriage can be stressful, recent studies have found professional women are more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat, less likely to have children, and, if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy about it. A recent study in Social Forces, a research journal, found that women--even those with a "feminist" outlook--are happier when their husband is the primary breadwinner.

Not a happy conclusion, especially given that many men, particularly successful men, are attracted to women with similar goals and aspirations. And why not? After all, your typical career girl is well-educated, ambitious, informed and engaged. All seemingly good things, right? Sure…at least until you get married. Then, to put it bluntly, the more successful she is the more likely she is to grow dissatisfied with you. Sound familiar?


To be clear, we're not talking about a high-school dropout minding a cash register. For our purposes, a "career girl" has a university-level (or higher) education, works more than 35 hours a week outside the home and makes more than $30,000 a year.

If a host of studies are to be believed, marrying these women is asking for trouble. If they quit their jobs and stay home with the kids, they will be unhappy (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2003). They will be unhappy if they make more money than you do (Social Forces, 2006). You will be unhappy if they make more money than you do (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2001). You will be more likely to fall ill (American Journal of Sociology). Even your house will be dirtier (Institute for Social Research).

And so on. It sounds like advice on what type of a car to buy: consider maintenance, durability and performance, but with the additional twist that a car will not run away whereas a wife might. So men are advised to find wives who can't run away, however unhappy they might be, and the way to guarantee this is to marry someone who can't make a living without the husband. Just in case a man might start thinking that it's not worthwhile to buy a wife at all, what with the chance that she might run away if she's educated and able to make at least $30,000 a year, the author points out a correlation between the man's income and marital status and also possible health benefits of marriage.

The way the piece uses studies is mind-boggling. It makes a mess of Gary Becker's ancient theory and then goes cherry-picking across a multitude of research projects for data that would reinforce Noer's biases. There is no attempt to see if the different studies mean the same thing with concepts such as working hours and incomes, there is no honest attempt to include studies with quite different findings, and there is no real understanding of the dynamics involved in a divorce. For example, it's generally accepted that divorce rates rise with the wives' earnings not because higher-earning wives are somehow crankier and less attractive but because they can afford to leave bad marriages. This isn't of any interest to Noer who seems to think that a wife is like a car or a toaster (and should just go on functioning until the husband decides that it's time for a newer model).

Or like a prostitute as another piece by the same author discusses.

I wonder what Mr. Noer would think about a reversal of his article, one that started by sifting through all the studies to find the characteristics of husbands who are especially likely to be involved in a divorce, and which then would write up a small instruction sheet for women contemplating hiring a husband.

It isn't necessarily the topics of Mr. Noer that I deplore; it is the way he approaches them. Most women don't view themselves as toasters or cars or professional sex workers (unless that's what they really are) and most women are unlikely to appreciate reading about that interpretation in a magazine they have paid for.
The link to Noer's prostitution article is via a commenter at