How Microwave Ovens Paved the Way for Same Sex Marriage

When I was five my family got its first microwave oven. The department store sent a nice lady over to teach my mother how she could use it to roast a chicken while we four children looked on in amazement. Little did I know then that this device was about to revolutionize marriage in an entirely unexpected way.

An interesting piece on Bloomberg this morning argues that the same economic factors that brought an end to “traditional” marriage are paving the way for the legalization of equal marriage rights for homosexual couples – home production technologies and the higher earning ability of women.

The beginning of the last century brought with it a whole new technology that revolutionized housework  – electrification. Almost immediately the market was flooded with new consumer durable goods, such as washing machines and electric irons, designed to make women more productive.

Economists like Jeremy Greenwood have argued that these early technologies decreased the opportunity cost of having wives working outside of the home and created an economic incentive that pushed women out of the home and into the workforce.

At the same time, electrification in manufacturing was creating new jobs that required more brains than brawn. This second economic incentive increased the earning abilities of women pulling women out of their homes and into the waged workforce.

Fifty years later, homes across North America began to fit themselves out with a new technology that saved women more time than any technology that came before it – the microwave oven. Food producers responded quickly with prepackaged foods that were easily prepared in a microwave oven in a matter of minutes.

Before we knew it family dinners were appearing on the dining room table without having a mom at home cooking all afternoon.

The authors of the Bloomberg piece, University of Pennsylvania professors Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, are absolutely right when they argue that marriage changed as a result of these economic influences.  

The traditional economic arrangement where women exercised their comparative advantage in home production while men exercised their comparative advantage in the labor force production has gone the way of the dinosaur, taking with it our view of what it means to work together as a couple.

Once society started to shift way from the “male bread winner” model of the family it was natural to start thinking about new ways to arrange families. Couples in which both partners are the same gender, after all, are not really so different from modern day heterosexual partnerships, at least not in terms of economic organization.

Stevenson and Wolfers, themselves the epitome of the modern day couple, write:


It is no coincidence that many of the opponents of same-sex marriage are also opponents of the ongoing shift to marriages of equality. Theirs is a futile battle.

Indeed, you can fight a war of public opinion if you like but economic influences have been shaping marriage for thousands of years (the bread-winner model of the family didn’t even exist 200 years ago) and they will continue to wield their influence long past the point at which anyone thinks that a loving relationship between two committed adults is unnatural.

Many thanks to Peter Jarrett for sending me the Bloomberg article this morning.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

What’s behind our appetite for self-destruction?

Is it "perverseness," the "death drive," or something else?

Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Each new year, people vow to put an end to self-destructive habits like smoking, overeating or overspending.

Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Photo: Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less

Douglas Rushkoff – It’s not the technology’s fault

It's up to us humans to re-humanize our world. An economy that prioritizes growth and profits over humanity has led to digital platforms that "strip the topsoil" of human behavior, whole industries, and the planet, giving less and less back. And only we can save us.

Think Again Podcasts
  • It's an all-hands-on-deck moment in the arc of civilization.
  • Everyone has a choice: Do you want to try to earn enough money to insulate yourself from the world you're creating— or do you want to make the world a place you don't have to insulate yourself from?
Keep reading Show less