Monday, January 19, 2009
Architects vs. Prostitutes
Back in China, friends used to joke about architects being like prostitutes: they are both service professions and can only do what the clients tell them to.
Here's a little quote from the book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, which tells us architects and prostitutes are in fact treated differently:
There are four meaningful factors that determine a wage:
1. how many people are willing and able to do a job;
2. the specialized skills a job requires;
3. the unpleasantness of a job; and
4. the demand for services that the job fulfills.
"The delicate balance between these factors helps explain why, for instance, the typical prostitute earns more than the typical architect. It may not seem as though she should. The architect would appear to be more skilled (as the word is usually defined) and better educated (again, as usually defined). But little girls don't grow up dreaming of becoming prostitutes, so the supply of potential prostitutes is relatively small. Their skills, while not necessarily "specialized," are practiced in a very specialized context. The job is unpleasant and forbidding in at least two significant ways: the likelihood of violence and the lost opportunity of having a stable family life. As for demand? Let's just say that an architect is more likely to hire a prostitute than vice versa."