Does economic growth lead to family breakdown?

Yes, says Chris Dillow, and explains why:

Start with the dishwasher. This embodies an important feature of economic growth – it’s given us labour-saving household technologies. Thanks to dishwashers, microwaves and the like, people no longer need to spend hours on household chores.

This has had several effects, described by Jeremy Greenwood. It means it’s more technically feasible for men and women to live alone. That alone has reduced the marriage rate and increased the divorce rate. It also means wives have had the time to enter the workforce. That’s led to more affairs – as men and women meet more often away from their spouses eyes at the workplace. And in giving women an income outside marriage, it’s increased their ability to divorce their hubbies.

This, though, is not the only way in which divorce has risen, and marriage fallen, because women no longer need a meal ticket. One feature of economic growth is a decline in relative demand for physical strength and increased demand for intellectual or social skills. This too has led to increased numbers of women workers – and the more skilled among them are not marrying and having children.

There’s more, read the full post.

Frankly, if economic growth leads to family breakdown because it empowers women and gives them more control over their lives, then I’m not going to mourn the family too much. It’s far better to aim for individual happiness than to pay homage to family values and suchlike.

(Link via SMS from Just Mohit, who saw it excerpted in Mint.)