In a scene from the 1999 BBC documentary "1900 House," a woman declared that no organized political movement did as much to liberate women as did the vacuum cleaner.


23 July 2012

Editor, Washington Post

1150 15th St., NW

Washington, DC 20071

Dear Editor:

Arnold Packer is unhappy with Robert Samuelson's upbeat interpretation of data on Americans' income mobility (Letters, July 23). Although Mr. Packer agrees that "the Pew Mobility Project report [shows] that most Americans' (84 percent) income exceeds their parents' income," he discounts this fact because "today many wives work when their 1960s counterparts did not."

Two points are noteworthy.

First, women's increasing participation in the workforce is strong evidence against the common notion that the number of jobs is fixed. In reality, this number rises over time with increases in the size of the labor force.

Second, and contrary to Mr. Packer's suggestion, income gains from more women working in the marketplace should not be discounted when reckoning improvements in families' living standards. Women entered the workforce over the past 50 years largely because the greater availability of prepared foods, as well as of home appliances such as automatic dishwashers and clothes dryers, freed them from the need to work in the home. So families today, as in the past, enjoy good meals, clean homes, and well-laundered clothing but, unlike in the past, enjoy IN ADDITION the goods and services purchased with women's monetary earnings.


Donald J. Boudreaux

Professor of Economics

George Mason University

Fairfax, VA 22030





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2 Comments so far

  1. Ed on July 24, 2012 8:40 pm

    I wonder if Don Factors in the high % of women who are doing jobs with no market value which are either directly or indirectly subsidized by the state. Never mind the negative impact their voting record has made on the political situation.

  2. Bill Brauer on July 26, 2012 2:33 pm

    I agree with the professor and in addition to the technological changes allowing women to work there were also the societal changes such as more opportunities open to women and the loss of the stigma of leaving the home to go to work.


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