August 23, 2006

Alcindoro: La virtù...

Every now and again, I feel a faint regret that I decided on a career in music rather that corporate finance or something like that. I'm a smart guy, I think. I could have made a lot of money. Money is nice.

How do I break out of this funk? Easy; I pick up a copy of Forbes.

In their latest issue, America's favorite Fabergé-egg-hot-air-balloon-and-flat-tax-supporting philanthropy reminds us all that, by gum, nobody's happy when the pants-wearing in the house is on the distaff side. (Article via Boing Boing.) Yes, "if some social scientists are to be believed" (not just one of them, buddy—some of them! So pay attention!) having a wife with a successful career means you're more likely to end up a childless, cuckolded divorcé living in your own filth.

Or not. Let's take a quick gander at a couple of these articles. This is the one that says men get depressed when their better halves are bringing home more bacon. From the abstract:
Increases in married women's absolute income generally have nonsignificant effects for married men. However, married men's well-being is significantly lower when married women's proportional contributions to the total family income are increased. The likelihood of divorce is not significantly affected by increases in married women's income. Nevertheless, increases in married women's income may indirectly lower the risk of divorce by increasing women's marital happiness. [emphasis added]
So low-income husbands (I do love the stock photo of the schlub they have to accompany the article) may be feeling low, but those marriages are better than ever? Not so fast, says our distinguished magazine: this study, again, is the one that supposedly says no, those upwardly mobile hussies are more likely to call that lawyer. From the abstract:
First, the authors predict change in wives’ employment between the two waves using marital happiness and other Time 1 characteristics. The results show that shifting into full-time employment is more likely for unhappily married than for happily married wives. Second, they examine how changes in wives’ employment between Times 1 and 2 influence marital stability and changes in marital happiness. The authors find that contrary to frequently invoked social and economic theories, wives’ full-time employment is associated with greater marital stability. [emphasis added]
Say howdy? Either Forbes is misrepresenting the second article, or that last word is a typo. And if they really did mean to write "instability," wouldn't that be the result of a methodological flaw? It seems from the abstract that they're drawing their conclusions from the pool of women who were stay-at-home wives, but later moved into full-time careers. That's right, the ones whose marriages were more unstable to begin with.

What does this have to do with music? Well, gosh—having a spouse who makes more than you? Isn't that every composer's dream? I can't think of a single professional musician in this situation who isn't tickled pink that his wife makes more than he does. Could it be that perhaps we're more secure in our manhood? Just askin'.

Virgil Thomson nailed this way back in 1939:
A surprisingly large number of composers are men of private fortune. Some of these have it from papa, but the number of those who have married their money is not small. The composer, in fact, is rather in demand as a husband. Boston and New England generally are noted for the high position there allotted to musicians in the social hierarchy and for the number of gifted composers who have in consequence married into flowery beds of ease. I don't know why so many composers marry well, but they do. It is a fact.

(from the wonderfully titled "How Composers Eat, or Who Does What to Whom and Who gets Paid")

And hey, with proper and extensive training, we might even do some of the housework.

(As long as we're referencing academics, you should consult the estimable Tyler Cowen of George Mason University, who, among other arts-related economic things, has done a fair amount of work on composers and inherited/married wealth. But that's a future post.)

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