catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Are women to blame for big government?

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A post at the New Economist blog earlier this month pointed me to this paper arguing that there was a relationship between higher female workforce participation and the size of government. It suggests that a 10% rise in participation in the workforce leads to 7 to 8% rise in the size of government. Its authors argue that

The decision to work outside the home is likely to lead women to demand wider and better provision of the public services that alleviate their unequal burden at home.

Certainly, we see the Budget offering ever more cash for childcare and other services aimed at alleviating the “pressures” on families juggling work and care responsibilities. In practice, women are the main beneficiaries of this kind of spending. In the 2005 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes women were moderately more likely than men to prefer extra spending on social services (which they benefit most directly from) to less tax (which benefits men on their higher incomes).

But there are other ways in which women put disproportionate burdens on taxpayers. The much greater number of elderly women and women’s no doubt related greater propensity to visit doctors adds to health and pension costs. The number of women leaving their (admittedly often violent or useless) male partners means that single parent payments overwhelmingly go to women.

Before anyone nominates me for another Ernie I am not suggesting we cut off welfare to women and sell our grandmothers for medical experiments. Good things often have downsides. But the women and big government paper is a useful reminder that it tends to be “real world” events such as changing demographics, technology and social organisation that drive the size of government, and not the swings back and forth of the arguments between social democrats and classical liberals.

Written by Admin

May 21, 2006 at 5:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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