Sunday, November 6, 2011

The bare bones cost of living

Somewhere recently (I forget where), I noted  that a number of companies are in effect using the U.S. Government to prop up its employee policies:  low wages, lack of health care, etc.

I realize the argument is not a perfect one.  Technically, companies are not required to keep their employees from starving to death, or dying from treatable medical conditions.  But I doubt you will find many companies that make that argument.

In any case, I found an interesting living expense calculator (ht: NC). They are lefties, so they call it a living wage calculator.  Some of their assumptions strike me as odd.  Why does the transportation cost go up for a child?  Presumably they can take the bus to school, and most times they are going somewhere they will be going there with their parent.   Child care will vary a lot with the age of the child.  But it is a reasonable starting point.

They then show the hourly rates for the area.  To my mind this would be an excellent tool for someone thinking of moving to an area.  Someone from the Northeast might pause before considering Wake County North Carolina if they realized that your typical construction worker is making $14.90 an hour, versus $24.04 in Middlesex County New Jersey.

In any case, it broadly shows why there are so many two income families.  It is not (primarily) because of the women’s movement, but because people need to pay their bills. It also adds some security of cash flow in an increasingly turbulent job market.  Granted two income holders have a higher net chance of a layoff than one, but their chance of zero income stream (both laid off simultaneously) is much lower.  It particularly works well if you can team up a benefit rich job (government) with a cash rich job (construction).


PioneerPreppy said...

You are presenting a kind of chicken and egg answer Russ.

Which came first the two income household or the bills that require the two income household?

I believe it was helped along and then once it became common inflation made it mandatory. Now most families are basically trapped.

russell1200 said...

The norm outside of the elite was always the two income household. Both the husband and the wife worked on the farm. When they did not have their own farm, it was very common for the lower classes to find work as servants.

What we think of as the norm was an outgrowth of the British Victorian Mercantile class. Not the nobility, but hardly common folk eithier.

The single income family was pretty much the unique characteristic of a economy that had turned away from agriculture, and had had the fortune (?) to have its industrial competitors blown up in WW2.

The feminist "pressures" started well before the women's movment of the 1970s. Of course how it actually played out was greatly impacted by a lot of other unrest that was occuring at the same time.

PioneerPreppy said...

Work around the farm does not equate into a two income family. Duties are duties but even in rural life the women rarely worked outside the home except for short periods. By the definition you are attempting to use every household would be a two income one except the idle rich.

russell1200 said...

Working around the home included making your own butter, soap, clothes, etc. All items that would be purchased today.

But many people did not own their own land and were cash laborers. Many of the people in this situation were never in a position to marry, but those that did would often have the wife working as well.

The more modern style of home management started just prior to the official industrial revolution with what is often now referred to as the commercial revolution. It, along with the agricultural revolution, where the run ups to the industrial revolution.

The modern style of home management was an outgrowth of the British commercial economy. It was an urban phenomina.

So to the extent that people were not living that urban lifestyle, then yes, most families were two income families. A pointed example would be to look at enslaved women. Yes they would take care of the children. But they also worked as well. The only reason that their work is more obviously "work" than the non-enslaved women is because the work was not done for their own family.

PioneerPreppy said...

You have swallowed some feminist doctrine there. Enslaved women? Young women sometimes took employment which typically ended after marriage. Occasionally they would return to the workforce off and on but usually only those women in an urban environment. It was that way throughout the colonial period in the U.S. up till WWII.

russell1200 said...

No! LOL! I meant literaly enslaved women - as in African origin slaves. I was trying to illustrate that the business nature of agriculture is a little blurry. It is true that a lot of the traditionally female work (manufacture of clothing and household goods) went toward reducing the bottom line, and the cash crops where generally the product of the mens part. But there are settings where that work would done by paid (though not in wages of course) through outside labor.

Pre-industrial people typically married much older than people realized. Something like 10% of the women never married. It was usually not feasible for men to marry until they were established enough to support the household. This meant a lot of men marrying around 29.

The open frontier allowed Americans to marry and have more children than the Europeans. The availablity of additional land made that possible. That is why the colonists would go absolutely ballistic when their ability to further expand was interrupted.

I haven't posted on it, but I have read about the pre-Revolutionary period in the Colonies, and a lot of the issues look like a classic population crunch. These population crunches were very hard on people trying to set up their households.

In net people were too poor to not work.

There are some arguments making the rounds at the moment, that the industrial revolution created a switch away from the need for muscle power to a need for brain power. Thus families decreased in size, but increased their education levels. Arguably, this would accentuate the life style changes that started with people moving out of agriculture.

So then you get into the question, in the 1970s did more women go into the work force because they needed to to maintain their lifestyle, because they were better educated and thus had more potential opportunities, or because the feminist movement encouraged them to do so?

I think that you are also arguing that the enterance of so many people into the workforce would also tend to drive wages down (or at least keep them where they are at) for everyone.

I supect that this is somewhat the case. However, some of this was inevitable after the Europeans and Japanese rebuilt their economies. Likely its larger impact would have been on positions that required lower levels of formal education.