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Belinda Brown: Families pay a heavy price for the decline of the male provider


Tom Chambers got himself in trouble when he said that men got paid more because they had to “pay for their wives and children”. He was pointing to a very important underlying mechanism – the transfer of resources from men to women and far from being silenced this should be part of the debate.

In the past, men were paid more than women because it was recognised that they might be supporting a wife and children. And among the middle classes even working wives are still supported by their well-paid husbands – not because of the gender pay gap, but because, women do so much more spending than men.

Let’s look at the facts. We know that women don’t earn as much money as men. This is reflected in the fact that men pay around 70 per cent of the tax.

Yet despite overall earning less than men for reasons which we have reiterated here and here and here, women are responsible for the vast majority of spending that goes on. A recent article in Forbes tells us:

“Women drive 70-80 per cent of all consumer purchasing, through a combination of their buying power and influence. Influence means that even when a woman isn’t paying for something herself, she is often the influence or veto vote behind someone else’s purchase.

And that “the name on the credit card doesn’t tell the whole story. The person who makes a sales transaction isn’t necessarily the decision maker. Even if a woman does not earn a paycheck, she is likely the gatekeeper to her household’s expenditures.”

Women may not earn most of the money but they control most of the money that is earned.

That is what Tom Chambers means when he says that “men have to pay for wives and children”.

The worst thing about this story is not that it happens. Prior to feminism, male provisioning was an effective way of ensuring that children were looked after. Even until recently women (only non-feminist ones I am sure!) have been more likely to go without for the benefit of their children. Prior to feminism, I suspect the majority of women respected their husband’s hard work and were themselves prepared to work hard in return.

The problem is that it only happens among the better off. If you look at the gender pay gap, the differences between men’s and women’s earnings decrease the further down the employment scale you go. Men make up the vast majority of those working in the gig economy and are increasingly present in other poorly paid sectors. The mothers of their children are much less likely to be cohabiting with or married to them because the State is the better provider. The poor are poor because the gender pay gap has gone into reverse.

The disastrous results of the decline in male earnings was laid bare in a recent report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies. The report explains how over the last 20 years the growth in earnings of working fathers has grown extremely slowly at 0.3 per cent on average while mothers’ earnings shave grown at more than 2 per cent a year. As a result, while the incomes of two earner families are 10 per cent higher than in 2002-2003, the incomes of one earner families have not changed in that period. The slump in male earnings leads to poverty where the mother does not work.

This means mothers of even the very young are under significant pressure to be in employment. This spells a huge burden of deprivation of love and care for our future generations. Endless evidence shows that women really want to be involved in the direct care of their children. And that children benefit from this. Fathers do too, and I think they should have the opportunity to do so, but you will have a hard time convincing me that the majority of men would prefer to spend more time with infants than out at work. By contrast, mothers prefer to spend time with their babies. So the traditional arrangement, given flexibility, actually works out well.

While this is still possible for the wives of well-paid men it is not possible for less advantaged women. Our feminist-driven policies have been so intent on promoting the position of women we have completely and utterly neglected the employment of men.

However, the way we live has been built on male providing and to ignore it and deny it is going to leave us all a lot worse off. Men earned money and gained status (patriarchy) because women demanded it.

Those who were successful were able to mate and reproduce. Men’s earnings rise both when they get married and when children are born. Men with partners are much more likely to be working than men without partners. This is particularly important for men whose work gives them little intrinsic motivation for doing the job. (further evidence for these arguments is available here, here )

Men used to earn because they wanted to look after their families. Women earn because they think it gives them more status, makes them more ‘equal’ and because they like spending money. Feminism has made women feel entitled to be ‘takers’ so men are turning away from them. As men lose their interest in supporting families, they are freed up to find more creative, enjoyable and interesting ways to spend their time.

They will be less motivated to earn money. This will help to solve the pay gap. It also threatens the future of our culture by undermining our reproductive relations – love and interdependence between women and men.

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Belinda Brown
Belinda Brown
Belinda Brown is author of 'The Private Revolution' and a number of well-cited academic papers. More recently, she has started writing and blogging for The Daily Mail and The Conservative Woman. She has a particular interest in men's issues and the damage caused by feminism.

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