Christopher Bruce summarises the most recent theoretical and empirical evidence concerning one of the most controversial, and poorly-understood, components of the calculation of future earnings – the so-called “productivity factor.” He notes that, although the observed rate of increase in earnings is tied to the rate of increase in labour productivity over the very long run, in shorter periods the two rates may differ if there is a significant increase or decrease in the supply of labour. Specifically, he reports that most economists now believe that the slow down in “real” wage growth (the rate of growth in excess of the rate of inflation) in the 1980s and 1990s occurred because of the increase in labour supply that came with the influx of “baby boomers.” That the baby boom is now working its way through the system implies, therefore, that the rate of growth of real wages will increase significantly in the next two decades.
The article develops a new and creative method for assessing the value of the housework provided by women in “traditional” marriages; that is, by women who stay at home full time. Professor Allen is an internationally recognised expert on economic aspects of marriage and divorce. He has, for example, written extensively on the impact of no-fault divorce laws. In this article, he argues that a widely-accepted theory of the manner in which individuals choose their spouses can cast light on the implied value that couples place on the value of housework. Specifically, he notes that many theories of spousal choice predict that individuals will choose mates in such a way that the contributions of the two spouses will be equal. If this is the case, then if the husband is working in the labour market, where he earns $50,000 per year, and the wife is working only at home, the value of her contribution to the marriage must also be $50,000.