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Thursday, May 11, 2006

yet another "authority" says German women are too selfish to procreate

Oooo-kay. Social Science is essentially the branch of the sciences that studies human behavior, individually and in groups. Because humans are such a diverse and unpredictable bunch, Social Science isn't as ... well, it's not quite as science-y as the hard sciences like chemistry and physics - you can't isolate humans the way you can isolate protons for study. You can't isolate facts about humans either.

But they sure do try, don't they? It's one of my pet peeves about economists, for instance, that they study human behavior without ever actually considering the properties of humans. So they make pronouncements on how 'workers' or 'markets' should behave, without regard to the fact that workers and consumers are also uh, dang, what's that word? Oh right - people. For instance, that it's often necessary for a business to fire workers, or freeze their wages, to remain competitive, and the workers should accept that, and be flexible. The fact that workers need to eat (for which they need money) is simply not a factor in their theories. But it is an inflexible property of humans, and so the theories are bunk.

So here's a psychologist for you, a professor at the University of Washington, expounding on German women without regard to what factors are influencing their decisions. He has an article in the L.A. Times that is subtitled: "Why are 30% of German women choosing to go childless? Free will, baby."

Wow. The term "free will" really trivializes the sacrifices you have to make in order to have children here. As I mentioned before, having children means choosing "housewife" as your career. In a country where taxes are high, and prices are high, raising a family on one income is becoming more and more difficult, since businesses need to stay competitive. Housewives here are battling for respect from both men and feminists, just as they are in the U.S. It is not a glamorous career choice. It's not a financially sound one, either. I'm trying to enter the workforce at 35, and I already know that even if I get a job this fall, I will never be able to retire. I started too late to save enough.

Of course we who have children know that they are totally worth it, and we'd do it again in a heartbeat, but you don't know that until you have kids, do you? So you can't really expect women to take that into account when they're trying to reach a decision.

He also mentions that "child-wariness...rises from 30% to more than 40% among German women who are college graduates" without noting that in Germany, a "college graduate" has a Master's degree at minimum - University here is more or less equivalent to grad school in the States. That is a critical distinction, because it changes the meaning of the sentence considerably. You don't get a Master's degree so you can spend the rest of your life scrubbing toilets.

Moreover, why is it always about the women? I realize that my immediate acquaintance does not represent a valid statistical sample, and I have no scientific data to back this up, but among the people I know, it's invariably the women who agitate to have a(nother) baby, and the men who say "not yet" and "we can't afford it" and "wait till I've advanced to the next step in my career."

So I'm frustrated. Because this guy is a psychologist, and therefore an "authority", and he's being irresponsible and people will read that and believe him. Argh.

1 comment:

~d (tilde) said...

i passed some of this by the husband, and he was ( not surprised ). But I am. I just had (have?) no clue how-umm, different things are elsewhere.