Housewife Careers

This is something I’ve been wanting to write about for a very long time, but have kept putting it off. The ultimate trigger for writing this is this article about women with children in Amazon asking for backup child care at work. Since this hits rather close home, this is a good enough trigger to write.

Quoting the article:

“Everyone wants to act really tough and pretend they don’t have human needs,” says Kristi Coulter, who worked in various roles at Amazon for almost 12 years and observed that many senior executives had stay-at-home wives.

(emphasis mine)

While this might be true of Amazon (though not necessarily for other large tech companies), it is true for other careers as well. The nature of the job means that it is impossible to function if you even have partial child-care responsibilities. And that implies that the only way you can do this job is if you have a spouse whose full time job is bringing up the kids.

Without loss of generality (considering that in most cases it’s the women who give up their careers for child-rearing), we can call these jobs “housewife jobs”.

Housewife jobs are jobs where you can do a good job if an only if you have a spouse who spends all her time taking care of the kids. 

The main feature (I would say it is a bug, but whatever) of such a job is usually long work hours that require you to “overlap both ways” – both leave home early in the morning and return late every night, implying that even if you have to drop your kid to day care, it is your spouse who has to do so. And as I’ve found from personal experience, it is simply not possible to work profitably when you have both child-dropping and child-picking-up duties on a single day (unless you have zero commute, like I’ve had for the last eight months).

Housewife jobs also involve lots of travel. Whether it is overnight or not doesn’t matter, since you are likely to be away early mornings and late evenings at least, and this means (once again) that the spouse has to pick up the slack.

Housewife jobs also involve a lot of pressure, which means that even when you are done with work and want to relax with the kids, you are unable to take your mind off work. So it turns out to be rather unprofitable time with the kids – so you might as well spend that working. Which again means the spouse picks up the slack.

Sometimes a job may not be inherently stressful or require long hours, but might be housewife because the company is led by a bunch of people with housewives (the article linked above claims this about Amazon). What this means is that when there is a sufficient number of (mostly) men in senior management who have housewives taking care of kids, their way of working percolates through the culture of the organisation.

These organisations are more likely to demand “facetime” (not the Apple variety). They are more likely to value input more than output (thus privileging fighter work?). And soon people without housewives get crowded out of such organisations, making it even more housewife organisations.

Finally, you may argue that I’ve used UK-style nurseries as the dominant child care mechanism in my post (these usually run 8-6), and that it might be possible to hedge the situations completely with 24/7 nannies or Singapore-style “helpers”. Now, even with full time child care, there are some emergencies that occur from time to time which require the presence of at least one parent. And it can’t be the same parent providing that presence all the time. So if one of the parents is in a “housewife job”, things don’t really work out.

I guess it is not hard to work out a list of jobs or sectors which are inherently “housewife”. Look at where people quit once they have kids. Look at where people quit once they get married. Look at jobs that are staffed by rolling legions of fresh graduates (if you don’t have a kid, you don’t need a housewife).

The scary realisation I’m coming to is that most jobs are housewife jobs, and it is really not easy being a DI(>=1)K household.

Marrying out of caste – 2

We stay with our analysis of the National Family Health Survey data on marrying out of caste. In this edition we look at factors that lead to higher rate of inter-caste marriage.

Based on the data given, age definitely has an impact on the rate of inter-caste marriage. To put it in another way, considering the entire survey was conducted at a particular point in time, what this means is that the incidence of inter-caste marriages in India has been steadily increasing, though at a glacial pace.

Women aged 45-49 at the time of survey were only 8.5% likely to marry someone outside their caste, while women aged 15-19 at the time of survey were 11.75% likely to marry outside their caste. This shows there is definitely a shift in rate of inter-caste marriage, but it is a very slow shift.

The other factors that have been examined, however, seem to give fairly contradictory results (compared to “conventional wisdom”, that is), and that forms an important factor in the survey. For example, only 11.6% of rural women surveyed married out of caste while only 10.6% of urban women surveyed did so (while the difference looks small, the sample size makes it statistically significant), turning on its head the conventional wisdom that urbanisation might lead to higher incidence of inter-caste marriages.

Education shows a bizarre pattern, though. Women educated at the school (primary or secondary) level are more likely to marry out of caste than uneducated women (the difference is small, though), but this trend “regresses” as the women get further educated – women with higher education are less likely to marry out of caste than even uneducated women! The pattern is the same with respect to the woman’s husband’s education level also.


There are more sources of contradiction – working women are as likely to marry within caste compared to non-working women (while there is a small difference it is hardly statistically significant, despite the large sample sizes). Standard of living also has no impact on likelihood of marrying within caste (difference too small to be statistically significant).

The most surprising result, though is regarding “exposure to media” (I don’t know how they have measured it). The likelihood of marrying out of caste is highest among women who have declared their access to mass media as “partial exposure”, followed by women whose declared access to mass media is “no exposure”. Women with highest access to mass media (“full exposure”) have, quite counterintuitively, the smallest chance of marrying outside of caste (this is a statistically significant result with high degree of confidence)!

A reasonably dominant discourse nowadays in certain circles is that exposure to media, urbanisation and women going out to work are responsible for destroying “our culture”. If we take likelihood of marrying within caste as a proxy for “culture” (the one that must be preserved as per these worthies), it turns out that urbanisation, access to higher education and exposure to mass media actually help preserve this “culture”, while access to employment for women and nuclear families do little to “destroy” this culture!

Now if we assume the above correlation to imply causation, and incidence of same-caste marriages as preservation of “culture”, what we need to do to preserve our culture is to increase exposure to mass media, access to higher education for women and urbanisation. While we are at it, we can promote nuclear families and access to employment for women also!

If only the Khaps and other self-proclaimed preservers of culture were to look at hard data before making their pronouncements!


Workforce Participation of Women

Krish Ashok and Puram Politics have been collecting data from various government sources and converting them to excel. This data contains a wealth of information on social indicators in India. You can expect the next few issues of RQ to be based on this dataset. Data is drawn from various government sources including the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation (MOSPI).

Today we will look at the workforce participation of women across the states of India. First, let us look at rural women. Notice that the all India average participation is close to 60%. Himachal Pradesh ranks the highest with over 83% while (perhaps surprisingly, developed states such as ) Delhi, Kerala and Punjab bring up the rear.



Next we will look at the workforce participation of urban women. Note now that the all India average drops to an abysmal 20%! While migration to urban areas is generally associated with increased standard of living, it is interesting to note that more and more women don’t work in urban areas. It is perhaps a reflection of the kind of jobs that are available in urban India.



Notice that once again, Himachal Pradesh is top and Punjab and Delhi bring up the rear. Actually there seems to be a correlation between workforce participation of rural and urban women across states. Let us explore that with a scatter plot.



Notice that there is a strong positive correlation. Interestingly, Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu (states associated with excellent education levels) display superior participation of urban women in the workforce relative to the participation of their rural women. Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan are also found to be above the regression line. Interestingly, it is hard to draw a pattern from this data in terms of which state is more developed.