Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit explains why he left big law:
…I looked at the partners and their lives and thought, “this is what it looks like when you win?”
But one thing I noticed about a lot of the partners was that they worked hard and pushed for more compensation because they were married to women who spent a lot of money. Perhaps the older women lawyers don’t have that incentive to stick around.
A commenter echoed Glenn’s description of the pressure involved for those who stay in big law:
Chasing partnership in Big Law has been described, properly, as “a pie-eating contest where the prize is more pie.” Best thing that ever happened to me was getting sacked from a Big Law firm in October ’08, when the legal market (and the economy at large) collapsed. I’ve done a bit of solo work, which has been grand, and am now outside general counsel to two companies and having a grand time of life.
I would rather sell everything I own and take up bartending than go back to life in a big firm — even if it were possible at this stage, which it pretty much isn’t. Sorry I spent 10 years trying to make that crap work.
As you may recall, the pressure married men feel to seek out and remain in more stressful and difficult jobs is a key benefit Prager and Wilcox claim men get from marriage. While obviously not all married men seek out and remain in jobs as stressful as big law, as Glenn suggests marriage does push men to make career choices they otherwise would prefer to avoid. This isn’t bad in itself, but the lengths we go to in order to minimize the sacrifices married men are making is a problem. This kind of foolishness prevents us from understanding the true cost of feminist policies to destroy traditional marriage. Being forced to work much harder to support others is not a benefit of marriage to men, just as the benefit of buying a home isn’t the need to work harder to pay the mortgage.
While Prager and Wilcox sell pressure to work more difficult jobs as a benefit to men, at least they understand that for men marriage comes with pressure to earn more. That men take on obligations as bread winners in marriage that women don’t would come as a terrible shock to many, probably most, economists. In fact, this is something economists go to great lengths to avoid seeing.
One of the favorite theories is that marriage frees men up to focus more on paid work. By this theory, single men dream of working a more dangerous job with more stress, a longer commute, and working more hours, but are prevented from chasing this lifestyle by the constant demands of housework. These poor single men are stuck putting dishes in the dishwasher when they could be sitting in traffic, traveling for business, or working late into the night. This absurd feminist theory simply won’t die, even though the data shows that marriage increases men’s focus on paid work while not reducing their focus on housework. As the St Louis Fed explains in For Love or Money: Why Married Men Make More
…If a man spends less time on housework after he is married, then it makes sense that he would see an increase in his wages because the extra time and effort spent at work would increase his productivity and promotion chances.
…while marriage does seem to make men more productive in the market (i.e., men begin making higher wages after marriage), household specialization does not seem to be the cause. They find little difference between married and unmarried men in the time they spend on home production.
If the productivity from marriage itself is not the result of decreased hours spent on housework, as Hersche and Stratton suggest, then where does that improved productivity come from? Because the earnings of divorced or separated men are higher than those of never-married men, the added productivity that accompanies marriage must be of two kinds: (1) productivity from the marriage itself and/or (2) advantages that remain even after the marriage is dissolved. Korenman and David Neumark argue in a 1991 study that the wage premium earned by divorced or separated men is attributable to the advantages gained while married. Their evidence is that wages grow more slowly in the years of divorce or separation.
Economic papers are filled with this kind of willful misunderstanding of what is going on. Why do men earn more after marrying, and then after divorce tend to stop growing their earnings? The answer is quite simple, and boils down to incentives. Men who want to marry know they need to earn more to signal provider status. After marriage men have greater responsibilities, and therefore have to earn even more. Threats of divorce ratchet this pressure up further, as men understand that the family courts are designed to separate fathers from their children while financially rewarding the mother at the father’s expense. Divorce for women means ejecting the man and keeping both the kids and a large part of his paycheck. Divorce for men means losing the kids and paying a steep monthly fee to finance the operation.
But since divorce removes the incentive married men naturally feel to earn more money, family court judges know they need to replace the natural incentive with something else. This is why the family courts assign men earnings quotas (imputed income) based on their previous income. The man might earn less than his quota, but he will be billed for child support and/or alimony based on this quota. This quota system is enforced with the threat of imprisonment, and is not surprisingly despised by the men who find themselves forced into it. This explains why divorced men earn more than never married men; they have a quota to meet based on their income at the end of the marriage. If they don’t maintain their married level of earnings, they will be sent to prison. It also explains why divorced men’s earnings tend not to grow like they would have were they still married; quota systems are effective in the short term at coercing hard work, but they create a disincentive for increasing productivity. Under a quota system earning more only increases your quota. Most men under our new quota system will work hard enough to stay out of prison, but they aren’t going to take risks and/or work harder for the privilege of increasing their quota.
Note that while Prager and Wilcox claim the pressure married men feel to work harder is a benefit to men, the St. Louis Fed likewise implies that being forced by a court to pay alimony and/or child support is an advantage divorced men have which never married men lack (emphasis mine):
…the added productivity that accompanies marriage must be of two kinds: (1) productivity from the marriage itself and/or (2) advantages that remain even after the marriage is dissolved.
We won the cold war because an incentive based system leads to a kind of dynamic productivity that a quota based system can’t ever hope to create. Yet we have dramatically reworked our family structure in ways only the Soviets could truly appreciate. This new system is hurting us in ways we refuse to accept, because accepting the cost would force us to rethink our family model. Part of the problem is that the costs associated with replacing marriage with a child support system weren’t immediately obvious. Since we pretended we still had a fundamentally marriage based family structure, initially men carried on as if that was the case. In fact, most men today still do so. However, over time the reality of the new system has caused not a marriage strike, but something more ominous. Just like with the Soviet system, this will continue until we decide the ideology behind the quota system isn’t worth the economic pain it inevitably causes. In the meantime, economists will remain baffled as to why married earn more than divorced men, and why both earn more than never married men.