Tuesday, June 27, 2006

What You Are Worth

So super-astute reader Anne e-mailed me yesterday about a very peculiar set of results from the salary.com mom and dad salary calculator.

The idea is one of those overly-simplistic-but-interesting exercises to figure out what market rate is for someone who cooks and cleans and watches kids and mows the lawn, etc. But the really interesting thing, Anne found, is that when you plug in the same values for an at-home mom and an at-home dad (say, two preschoolers), you find that the median dad is worth almost $10,000 *less* a year than his at-home mom counterpart. If you futz with the customization a bit, though, you'll find that dads in my ZIP code who put in the exact same hours of work as moms should be paid more than $30,000 *more*. Weird stuff.

If you plumb the algorithm, though, you find some funny assumptions. (And not the "ha ha" funny). Moms are worth more, on average, because the site assumes they "work" 11 percent more than dads. But when you rig the site so that moms and dad put in the same amount of work, dads come out ahead because it assumes a different mix of work. Moms spend a plurality of their time as "housekeepers" ($10.24/hour), whereas housekeeping isn't even an option for dads (who can be considered a "General Maintenance Worker I," at $15.28/hour). So if you're prone to get upset about such things, there are two incendiary assumptions here:

1) Moms work harder at home, but
2) Dads do more "high-value" work (as determined by the market)

All in all, it's an interesting glimpse into what a bunch of (presumably) serious people at salary.com think when they compare "typical" at-home moms and dads. The fact is that the work of an at-home parent gets pretty much gets broken down the same, regardless of gender. The amount of laundry is the same, even if the algorithm suggests that at-home dads can get away with spending 40 percent less time doing laundry. Sure, there are variations -- but I suspect the variations between individuals pretty much swamps the variation between the sexes.

Are Anne and I right to be scratching our heads, or are at-home dads doing really doing less around the house than their at-home mom counterparts?


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