January 11, 2014
MEGAN MCARDLE: Marriage Makes You Rich And Stupid.
I mean, I used to know where I kept my batteries and old documents. But when we got married, my husband, who is much tidier than I am, took over organizing the house. Now, unless it’s a piece of my clothing or kitchen equipment, I have no idea where we keep anything. And while I’m pretty sure I used to be able to put up shelves, now all I know how to do is ask my husband to do it.
On the other hand, he has no idea how much money we have, or in what accounts. And he can’t do the grocery shopping, because he doesn’t know what we consume. Individually, we are less competent to survive on our own. But collectively, we eat better, and we have a tidier house and better-managed finances. And our shelves don’t fall down so often.
Obviously, child-rearing is a major area of specialization. One interesting thing I’ve heard from gay parents is that they find themselves falling into roles that you might describe as “Mom” and “Dad,” even though this is obviously not some pre-programmed gender destiny. It just doesn’t make sense to try to jointly manage a kid 50-50; one parent keeps the social calendar and decides what kids Junior can play with, because two parents trying to do it actually makes the task take a lot more time, as both people have to learn about all the friends and the birthdays and the parents, and then negotiate what Junior does with her time. I’m not saying this happens with every gay parent. I’m just saying that gay parents I know report considerable benefits to specialization.
Specialization also allows for external income gains — perhaps one reason that married men make a lot more than single ones do and married households are richer than single ones. Some of that is selection effect, of course — stable, responsible men are probably more likely to get married, especially in this day and age.