Sociology 352: Sociology of Families
Prof. J. Brines
Final Exam Study Guide
March 8, 2006
I. Men and Housework (3/1 Guest Lecture by Jen Hook).
Women’s labor force participation in the US:
1940: 28% 1997: 60%
Finland, France, Germany:
Parental leave policy: Per child, 160 weeks (3 years) of parental leave, usually
1 ½ years of parental leave per child. Costs employers about $300/yr to offer this
12 weeks unpaid parental leave (through 1993 Family Medical Leave Act).
Parental Leave and Women’s Employment
Short parental leaves tend to keep women in the labor force
Long leaves work against keeping women in the labor market
--diminished attachment to employment
--work skills get rusty
Does leave-taking lead to discrimination?
Research is inconclusive, but leave-programs are subsidized by the government,
so there is no incentive for employers to discriminate
Publicly-funded Child Care
Denmark: approx. 75% $4000 per child per year
U.S.: less than 10% $ 600 “ “ “
Scandanavia: Funding comes national and local governments.
Parents charged modest fees.
Publicly-funded child care might help facilitate women’s return to the workforce,
but doesn’t really matter for men’s employment.
Implications of family policy for men: Why should we care?
Is context irrelevant?
What does this say about gender in the family?
Increasing men’s unpaid work might assist:
Women’s labor force employment. E.g. Holland and Germany want
women to work so they can collect more taxes (to support the Baby Boom
Low fertility in some European countries (might increase fertility if
women see marriage and children as a “better deal.”)
Gender equality (if considered a social “good”).
Individual and Household-Level explanations for men’s housework
Social exchange and bargaining
Gender Ideology and “Doing Gender”
These theories have been pitted against each other.
Welfare State Regimes
National orientations to gender and policy predict men’s involvement in
Welfare State Typology
Liberal: Market-oriented, expected to be in the mid-range of
egalitarianism (“if women want to have kids, they should get good jobs
and be able to pay for childcare themselves”).
Examples: U.S., U.K., Australia
Social-democratic: State-oriented, expected to be the most egalitarian.
Examples: Norway, Sweden, Finland
Conservative: Family-oriented, expected to be the least egalitarian.
Examples: France, Germany, East European countries
An Integrative Approach
Individual and household-level processes are situated within complex
Specialization: Context can influence the comparative value of
market and household time. If new mother is give time off from
work w/pay, this reduces the opportunity costs of housework and
childcare (i.e., raises their value relative to paid work).
Social Exchange and bargaining: Context can influence the
resources men and women possess. E.g., the threat of divorce is
more credible if there are labor market opportunities for women.
Gender ideology and “doing gender”: Context can influence the
ease/difficulty of adhering to ideologies.
Men’s involvement in household labor is structured by social context.
Men’s unpaid work time is affected by women’s employment at the
national level; true for all men.
Fatherhood: Effect of having a child is contingent on women’s labor force
hours and parental leave policies.
Women’s work hours and eligibility increase men’s unpaid work
Lengthy parental leaves decrease men’s unpaid work
Highly individual, gendered behavior is sensitive to external conditions
Individual-level and national-level theories separately offer only partial
explanations for men’s unpaid work behavior.
Lesson about unintended consequences: Giving generous parental leave
policies doesn’t increase men’s unpaid work
Conclusion: Stalled Revolution
Men overall are doing more housework and childcare now compared to
Long parental leave-policies work against men’s unpaid work
II. Gender, Families, and the Economy (3/1)
Family purchasing power: The Situation Today.
Declining real wages for most workers over the past year
Stagnation since year 2000
Reason? Increasing Health Care Costs?
47% of the workforce do not get health coverage through their job.
Employers' health care costs rose more slowly in 2005 than any year since
Change in shares of GDP going to profits vs. compensation (wages and
benefits) over the last several business cycles
Taking the longer view:
Family Income inequality has grown over the past two decades
Since 1979, incomes grew fastest among the most affluent
Research from the Congressional Budget Office:
The richest 1% of households now receive a larger share of the national
income than at any time since 1937, except for the period from 1997 to
Why the growing income gap between richest and poorest families?
Growing differences in (in order of importance):
Hours worked for pay
Mix of income sources
# families w/husband and wife
Poverty trends in US since 1970s
Poverty Rates are higher during economic recessions, and lower during times of
At the same time, there are important differences between social groups in
their vulnerability to poverty
Poverty has declined among the aged
Poverty has increased dramatically among children
Female householders with children fare worst
Hispanics in most family types have lost ground compared to whites
The risk of poverty has been rising for women compared to men
Wage patterns for men and women
Women’s wages have increased relative to men’s since the 1970s, but their pay
still lags men's in virtually every sector of the economy.
Full-time female workers made 77.5 percent of what their male counterparts did
Why is the gender wage gap closing?
Women benefit from the economy's shift toward the services sector
Millions of women work in government and health care, two growing sectors of
Men dominate industries like manufacturing and (more recently) technology that
have been hit hard by layoffs and pay cuts
Changing Economics and Family Structure
Role of men’s income:
High men’s income encourages marriage
by increasing advantages of gender specialization
Recent delays in marriage due to men’s more difficult job prospects and
declining relative wages.
Evidence of a “men’s income effect” on marriage:
Cohabiting men with better earnings prospects are more likely to get married
Men with higher earnings are more likely to marry, and less likely to divorce
What about women’s earnings?
Women’s greater economic independence reduces the “gain from marriage.”
In unhappy marriages, economically “independent” women can (theoretically)
exit and support themselves and children
However, women with higher earnings seem to be better “marriage material”
Women with higher earnings are more likely to marry.
This is a reversal of past trends (-1960s), when women with better-paying
jobs/careers were less likely to marry
Most research shows offsetting effects of married women’s earnings on chances of
divorce, or no effects
On the one hand, women who earn more are more independent and can leave a
marriage, increasing the chances of divorce: the “independence” effect
On the other hand, women who earn more contribute to a larger family income,
which reduces the chances of divorce: the “income” effect
In the end, it’s a wash
Among couples who do divorce: Economic Consequences?
Modest short-term increase in men’s economic well-being
Serious decline in women’s (and children’s) economic well-being 18 months out.
Despite improvements in women’s earning power, recent cohorts of divorcing
women are no better off than earlier cohorts.
Why is divorce more economically costly for women? Persisting gender differences
in human capital investment
Women still more likely than men to take time off for having/raising children
This leads to skill depreciation and “lost time” in the race for promotions
Most married women remain specialists in relationship-specific skills (and bear
the opportunity costs)
To Sum Up
There have been economic improvements among families over time (a “rising
tide,” but mostly because wives are putting more time into employment)
But increasing family income inequality
These inequalities have grown between single parent and dual parent households
This, along with a rising number of single-parent households, has put women and
children at greater risk of poverty today than in the past
III. The Balancing Act: Work and Family (3/8)
The proportion of husbands and wives who both worked full-time increased
between 1970-1990, but has remained nearly frozen since then.
Husbands began to do more housework, and their wives less, in the 1970s, and
this trend continued until (again) 1990 – although most of the change in men’s
behavior occurred between 1970 –early 1980s.
Why is the sexual division of labor in families resisting further change?
One argument: Husbands and wives (or cohabiting partners) perform unpaid
family work according to
“Logic of the pocketbook”: The person who earns the most does the least. The
“dependent” spouse/partner does the most.
Because women’s relative wages have improved somewhat, but are nowhere near
parity with men’s, and because most women coupled with men earn less than they
do, women do most of the housework.
Research has shown that the more a spouse makes relative to his/her partner, the
less housework s/he does.
These effects have been weak, but just “strong enough” to support the idea behind
the “logic of the pocketbook.”
A Different Hypothesis
Housework (and childcare) remain “women’s work” because it is an important
avenue through which men and women can appear masculine or feminine.
Women appear “essentially female” by doing housework
Men appear “essentially male” by avoiding it.
Why are women and men compelled to exhibit femininity or masculinity in
everyday life, especially through work?
Strong presumption in Western cultures that “you are what you do.”
Face-to-face interaction is premised on knowing the gender of the person you’re
Most men and women comport themselves in everyday life to avoid any risk of
“mistaken identity” (“It’s Pat!) or “unaccountable” behavior as a man or woman.
In the Case of Unpaid Family Work:
For women to be economically “dependent” and housework-doers is gender-
For men to be economically “dependent” is gender inconsistent.
“Dependent” men who do housework are in even deeper “gender jeopardy.”
Unorthodox couples do a “balancing act”
Hypothesis: Breadwinner wives and dependent husbands “do gender” by adopting
a traditional division of housework.
The more a husband is dependent on his wife, the less housework he does.
Couples (esp. wives) talk about this as a way of reestablishing a “balance of
power” in the marriage.
Evidence is accumulating (Brines 1994; Greenstein 1999; Bittman et al. 2004) that
supports this view. But in Sweden, the “logic of the pocketbook” holds across all
types of earnings arrangements among couples.
If breadwinning, housework and childcare serve as important activities for the
enactment of masculinity and femininity, then we are unlikely to see gender
equality in these arenas.
The Big Picture:
Future Issues affecting Families
1. Marriage as a “Luxury Good”
Increasing income inequality may put marriage out of reach for more
Positive sorting in marriage markets means married couples will be
increasingly “better off” relative to the unmarried population
Unmarried “Fragile Families” report waiting until $$$$ in hand before
marriage (but not before childbearing)
2. Caring Labor
Aging of the population will increase demand for “caring labor” from
younger adult family members
Providing family care is an economic liability:
Indirect costs: Wage penalty for motherhood (note wage bonus for
In female-headed households (now a considerable percentage of
the population), caring labor imposes opportunity costs with
serious repercussions for family income-earning.
Dilemma of “the sandwich generation”
3. Globalization and the 24/7 Economy
Globalization has fostered a 24/7 economy – competitive firms now need
to be able to respond in “real time” to suppliers, customers, etc.
throughout the world.
An increasing number of jobs thus have “nonstandard” work schedules
(night, graveyard, or rotating shifts).
Meanwhile: High quality, affordable childcare is often difficult to find
Some dual-earner couples “solve” the childcare problem by working
staggered shifts (wife: day; husband: nights) in 24/7 Economy jobs.
A childcare “solution,” but:
Nonstandard work shifts are having physical, psychological, and relational
effects (i.e., they disrupt marriages); physical/psych effects are emerging
among long-term rotating-shift workers.