Women’s time has experienced a surge in value. As more women have pursued higher education and stepped into professional roles, their time’s value has more than doubled, incentivizing a substantial reorganization of daily life with consequent transaction costs.
It’s expensive for highly educated women to be homemakers but that means substituting the wife’s time for a host of market services, day care, house cleaning, transportation and so forth. Juggling all of these tasks is difficult. Women’s time has become more valuable but also more constrained and requiring more strategic allocation and optimization for both spouses.
In previous eras, a spouse who stayed at home served as a reserve pool of time, providing a buffer to manage unexpected disruptions such as a sick child or a car breakdown with greater ease. Today, the same disruption require a cascade of rescheduling and negotiations to manage the situation effectively. It feels hard.
By the way, the same theory also explains why life often appears to unfold at a slower, more serene pace in developing nations. It’s not just an illusion of being on holiday. In places where time is less economically valuable, meals stretch more leisurely, conversations delve deeper, and time itself seems to trudge rather than race
If the value of time fell, we might find ourselves eating more leisurely meals and taking more time to appreciate the simple pleasures in life…
Rather than lamenting the rise in relative prices, we should recognize and appreciate our ability to afford them, and even acknowledge that on certain occasions, they are worth paying.