What Women Want
<The Happiest Wives - New York Times
In a more egalitarian world, there would be more wives mining coal and driving trucks, and more husbands cooking dinners and taking children to doctor's appointments. But that wouldn't be a fairer world, as Nock and Wilcox found...The happiest wives in their study were the ones who said that housework was divided fairly between them and their husbands. But those same happy wives also did more of the work at home while their husbands did more work outside home.
Here's why this article is b.s.: Tierney fudges the distinction between hedonism and the desire-satisfaction account of wellbeing. According to hedonism what makes us well off is getting pleasure or "happiness" which is something like that though not clear exactly what it is. According to the desire-satisfaction account or "preferentism" what makes us well off is getting satisfying our [rational, informed] preferences. Preferentism is the orthodox view and, without producing arguments for it suffice it to say, the view that I think is the more plausible. So let's for the sake of the argument assume preferentism.
Since most people prefer happiness to unhappiness there's not actually that much difference in practice when we consider individual cases. But differences show up in the aggregate. Suppose lots of people prefer pistachio ice cream to chocolate, but that pistachio is harder to get (true!) and more expensive. In these circumstances there are likely to be more happy chocolate-lovers than pistachio-lovers. Chocolate-lovers will find it easy and cheap to satisfy their preferences so there will be lots of happy chocolate-lovers pigging out. Pistachio lovers by contrast will find it hard and expensive to get their preferred dessert. They may be able to get what they want but the hassle and other costs associated with that will be high and so undermine their happiness, so in the aggregate there will be fewer happy pistachio consumers than chocolate-consumers: the costs of pistachio consumption undermine happiness. You cannot infer from the fact that most chocolate-consumers are happier than most pistachio-consumers that most people prefer chocolate to pistachio.
Now let's consider wives. There are some women who prefer traditional arrangements, where men bring in most of the income and women do most of the housework; there are others who prefer non-traditional, equalitarian arrangements. The traditional arrangement, like chocolate ice cream, is easy to get and cheap. Wives who prefer the traditional arrangement will find it easy and hassle free to get it: their preference will be satisfied and they will be happy. Wives who want to mine coal or drive trucks, or hate cooking and taking children to doctor's appointments, are going to find it hard to to get what they want and, if they get it, the costs will be high. If you work in the mines or on the trucks you are going to get hassled at work, face discrimination and have to deal with co-workers who hate your guts; if you don't like to cook, don't want to take your kids to the doctor, and would prefer to trade off leisure and domestic concerns for longer hours and harder work outside the home you are going to pay heavily to satisfy your preferences. You'll be hasseled by your colleagues in the mine and wrangle continually with your husband about household responsibilities. You are not going to be very happy--at least it is unlikely that you will be as happy as women with traditional aspirations who get what they want.
Consequently, given the high costs of egalitarian arrangements, it is likely that even if most women strongly prefer them to traditional arrangements, more women in the aggregate will be happier with traditional arrangements. It does not follow that ceteris paribus women prefer traditional marriages--ceteris are not paribus.
Tierney is, as usual, responding to a straw man: the idea that women's traditional role in marriage is somehow inherently demeaning and that no one could rationally prefer it. This is not what serious feminists claim nor do we claim that, as a matter of empirical fact most women would prefer truck-driving or mining to traditional pink-collar work. What we claim is that women have a damned hard time getting those truck-driving and mining jobs, and avoiding pink-collar work--and that this should be fixed. The data cited does not show that women don't want those jobs or that they prefer to play traditional roles: it shows that women who go with the flow have an easier time of it.
What do women want? Data showing that women who get x are by and large happier than women who get y doesn't show that more women want x than y.