Davidson’s nanny diaries

Posted: 28 March 2012 in Uncategorized

Poor Adam Davidson. He can’t quite figure out how much he should pay for his son’s nanny: “Would my son suffer with a midmarket nanny?”

And, beyond that, he has trouble with the economics of high-priced nannies for wealthy people. He tries out both “experience goods” and “experience goods.” But they don’t seem to work. So, what’s the appropriate economics for this situation:

According to Pavillion’s vice president, Seth Norman Greenberg, a nanny increases her market value if she speaks fluent French (or, increasingly, Mandarin); can cook a four-course meal (and, occasionally, macrobiotic dishes); and ride, wash and groom a horse. Greenberg has also known families to prize nannies who can steer a 32-foot boat, help manage an art collection or, in one case, drive a Zamboni to clean a private ice rink.

And then there’s social climbing. “A lot of families, especially new money, are really concerned about their children getting close to other very affluent children,” Greenhouse says. “How do they do that? They find a superstar nanny who already has lots of contacts, lots of other nanny friends who work with other high profile families.” There are the intangibles too. “I’m working with a phenomenal Caribbean nanny right now,” Greenhouse says. “She is drop-dead beautiful. Her presentation is such that you’re proud to have her by your children’s side at the most high-profile events.”

Thorstein Veblen produced the concept over a century ago: conspicuous consumption.

  1. […] had my criticisms of Adam Davidson’s reporting (such as here and here) but I do think he gets this one just about right: Art is often valuable precisely because […]

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