Before you point out that I’m not qualified to discuss what is in the best interest of women, I will agree with you. Most of the following post comes to me on Facebook, from the wall of a friend. I’m sharing it because, well, it’s interesting and thought provoking… and a little bit cynical. It was written by Tonya Britton of Houston Texas a day or so after the Presidential Election. During the election, it was noted that single women voted strongly for Obama while married women were more evenly split for Romney.
“Megyn Kelly of FOX News suggested that the divide between married and single women is a result of single women’s expectation that the Government would take care of them. That single women are trying to "marry" the government. Given that she framed the marriage divide as one in which a woman is either taken care of by her husband or taken care of by her government leads me to a single conclusion: Conservative married women view their husbands as cash cows whose job it is to financially care for them.
Given this construct, these women are likely not concerned about women’s rights to the same degree as single women because these women incur substantial economic benefits from marriage. They are able to leverage the higher wages provided to male heads of households, so increasing women’s wages will only serve to increase competition against their primary sources of income. When a husband dies, the retired widow can apply for his social security or hers, the difference of which is likely to be substantial as his lifetime income is greater. The difference between his SS and hers is an entitlement paid to her that she did not earn. Married women and their children can also access health benefits through their husbands’ employer.
Because employer-paid healthcare is a transfer fund- it is derived from the profits generated by labor – single women in the workplace supplement the incomes of stay-at-home mothers, which frees additional income for those women to be able to afford to pay out-of-pocket for reproductive healthcare. Single women’s reproductive healthcare costs must be paid out of pocket, an expense that is sourced solely from her income, with no supplemental assistance.
As an aside, married women with children derive other benefits from the tax-payer (secondary schooling, parks and other community services), therefore it is in their best interest to ensure that wages in their community remain high. It would intuitively seem that they would wish to increase single women’s income, except that the vast majority of single income persons do not own homes and therefore do not substantially contribute to the tax base (i.e. property tax) and those that do own homes, often lobby for tax-payer investments in their communities that do not directly benefit families (i.e, higher end retail, art galleries, nice restaurants, etc.). It is to the married woman’s benefit to support policies and laws that build families within their communities, while discouraging those that would entice the relocation of both low and high income single females into their neighborhoods.
On the issue of reproduction, we often hear that single pregnant women should give up their children for adoption because there are “a lot of families who wish to adopt.” If that is the case, effectively, upper class married women stand to gain by being provided access to children without having had to incur the physical, financial, or emotional (burden) of actually having to bear them.
From a single woman’s point of view, I do not wish for the government to care for me. I do, however, seek a government that protects me- from those who view me as more of a resource, than as a human being. And that, at the end of the day, is the point that I think most Republicans, including Ms. Kelly, refuse to acknowledge.” – Tonya Britton
There are some interesting economic points in Ms. Britton’s argument. From a personal standpoint, I am in no position to argue the issue, because I am a married man, not a single woman. However, from an economic standpoint, there are some things I can weigh in on. First off, the following statements are true:
- Married women incur significant economic benefit from their husband’s income
- Retired widows can apply for the social security benefits of their deceased husband, often earning more money than with their own (this is the case today with my mother).
- Employer-paid healthcare benefits married women. In all likelihood, it is the chief source of healthcare for married women who are not in the workforce themselves.
- Married women with children derive substantial benefits from tax-payer funds (good schools, good parks, good community services)
- Single income people are less likely to own their own home than married people (see source).
- Single pregnant women are often encouraged to put their children up for adoption.
That said, some of the conclusions, while possibly true, are not a direct logical conclusion from the facts presented.
- For example, while married women derive benefits from their husband’s income, the divorce rate is still substantial. 25% of couples who married between 1990 and 1995 did not see their 10th anniversary (see source). Any woman who is voting to keep pay rates down for single women must do so believing that they will never actually be single themselves. If women are so calculating as to vote to keep pay rates down for other women to benefit themselves, how is it that they are so short sighted as to believe that they will never be single?
- While it is true that employer-based healthcare benefits married women, the cost of reproductive care comes out of their pocket just as assuredly as if they were single. The benefit of paying for reproductive care is much more related to income status than marital status. That said, I believe that women have no problem remembering how difficult it was to pay for contraception when they were young and broke, and see it as a fairness issue to make sure that young women have as much financial burden as young men.
- While it is true that single mothers are encouraged to put their kids up for adoption, the motivation most frequently cited is that married couples are usually better equipped to handle the stresses of parenting… not to provide a supply of fresh babies to lazy rich women.
I think the argument above is interesting. However, it appears to be missing the primary reason that single and married women are voting differently: their husband. If married men are voting for Romney, women have a person in their house who is arguing for Romney. Some will want to keep the peace. Some will trust him to make the decision. Some will agree because they share a trusted leader (like a pastor or priest) who tells them both to vote for Romney. Some may even fear their husbands. Regardless, their husband’s viewpoint will impact theirs. (Note this works for Obama as well… but Obama is not strong among older white men where these indications are more likely to apply than in younger, or more racially mixed, couples).
This isn’t to say that women don’t have their own mind and their own rights to vote. It is simply the reality that marriage requires compromise and concession. The choice of a president may very well be part of that compromise. It is not listed in the reasons above, and I believe it should be.