I asked this question five years ago. Recently, on Facebook, Nathan Smith wrote,
Consider the following hypothesis. Once upon a time, there was a notion of “respectability.” Society, represented chiefly by the gossip of housewives, imposed honesty, chastity, and maybe some degree of piety, not so much by force as by public opinion. And I think that mere “respectability” qualified one for certain jobs, such as child care, handling money, personal service, etc. Nowadays, tolerance and the Sexual Revolution have abolished the category of respectability, but there are still a lot of jobs where people don’t need special skills but do need to have good character, so some filter is needed. So education has become the new respectability. . .A whole social stratum finds it hard to get access to jobs they could do, because our nonjudgmental society refuses to circulate the information about people’s characters that potential employers need, and the substitute for respectability, education, can’t be universal because, while everyone could be chaste and honest, many don’t have the academic ability to succeed in college, and/or can’t afford it. So personal service, which almost vanished during the economically egalitarian mid 20th century, but would be well worth reviving today, doesn’t make a comeback for lack of an identifiable class of respectable people whom the rich would allow to be present in their homes. . .
1. There are a lot of jobs that involve personal care. Elder care and child care are what I have in mind.
2. What Smith calls “character” might be described as conscientiousness.
3. I do not get the impression that the personal care market fails in any dramatic sense. That is, I do not get the impression that there are many conscientious people willing to take jobs in personal care who are unable to find such jobs. If such a market failure were to present itself, it could be solved by entrepreneurs forming companies to vet and guarantee the quality of individual providers of elder care and child care.
4. Not that Smith was responding to my original post, but there I was suggesting that the high concentration of wealth would imply not so much that every middle class family should have personal servants but that rich people should have hundreds or thousands of personal servants. I think it is an instructive issue to ponder, but I have not come up with any new theories in the past five years, although I would add that the “supply problem” might include the fact that there are many people who are not conscientious.