But the new tax-the-rich policies target exactly the high-achieving professional woman who may be thinking about making a big life change, says Nathan Oman, a professor of business law at William and Mary.
“She’s right at the edge, and then you decrease her return, and she says, ‘Screw it. I’d rather be at home,’” he explains. “I think it’s kind of ironic. A lot of progressives, who would actually very much like to see female work-force participation rise, also favor very high marginal taxes, which would discourage at least some women from working.”
Pamela Stone, a sociologist at Hunter College, studied high-income couples and women who quit their careers for her book Opting Out? She notes that families in the top tax bracket, unlike their lower-earning counterparts, are often in a financial situation where the wife actually has a choice about whether to work or not. She found that women don’t cite marginal tax rates when they drop out of the work force; such financial factors are often secondary or even tertiary considerations. But tax rates may affect “a family who’s right on the cusp, a man or woman whose job is very difficult.”
And the loss of these women has implications beyond the economic sphere.
“We have too many women out of the labor force now,” Stone tells National Review Online. “The cultural impact is that we’re losing a lot of great talent, and we’re also asking women who have trained for professional careers to make incredible accommodations. A lot of the time, we’re finding that women are opting out of those careers and not returning to them. We’re also losing women who could be real change agents at work. These are women who tried to promote flexibility and be real role models.”
— Jillian Kay Melchior is a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.