VIEWS: 0 PAGES: 5 CATEGORY: Relationships POSTED ON: 3/28/2013
Read this ebook wisely, support us to upload more ebooks by sharing to your friends, Thank You!
Read this ebook wisely, support us to upload more ebooks by sharing to your friends, Thank You!
Working wives and mothers : what happens to family life? The changing work role of women has caused much concern about the survival of the family; most women can mix work with marriage and motherhood and handle or better share the resulting household responsibilities SAR A. LEVITAN AND RICHARD S. BELOUS American families seem to be besieged from all sides. male work patterns . The war effort's high demand for Divorce rates are climbing ; marriage is being post- labor and patriotic fervor induced many women to join poned, if not rejected ; fertility rates are falling; increas- the labor force, boosting the size of the female work ing numbers of children are being raised only by their force by 57 percent during the war. Some analysts pre- mothers, either because of divorce or because their par- dicted that after the war family work patterns would re- ents were never married ; and wives and mothers in re- turn to the previous norm . They reasoned that rising cord numbers are rushing out of the home into the productivity and economic growth would continue to labor market . What is the effect of these occurrences on boost the income earned by husbands, thus reducing the institution of the family? Does the "economic inde- the need for another check and inducing wives to return pendence" of working women influence their decisions to their homes. This, of course, did not happen, as to either begin or end a marriage or to rear children? economists failed to consider the nonpecuniary attrac- Too frequently, the changing work patterns of women tions of work and the appetite for more income . are confused with causing the deterioration of family Since World War II, American households have life . Careful analysis of family-related data show that al- shown a strong propensity to increase their consump- though American families are changing, they are not tion of goods and services . Many wives joined the work eroding. force to finance these upward consumption patterns . The fact that women are working in record numbers Like the mechanical rabbit leading the greyhounds is not a new phenomenon . What has changed are the around the racetrack, these aspirations have consistently conditions and places in which they work . Many tasks stayed ahead of rising productivity, often requiring an- which were once performed inside the home are now other paycheck in the chase for the "good life ." With the source of jobs held by women outside the home. inflationary pressures and slow growth in productivity World War II stands as a major breaking point in fe- during the 1970's and early 1980's leading to sluggish gains and even occasional declines in real earnings, an- other check became necessary to maintain the standard Sar A. Levitan is director of the Center for Social Policy Studies, of living, or growing consumption expectations, to George Washington University, and Richard S. Belous is executive di- which the families had become accustomed . By 1980, 3 rector of the National Council on Employment Policy . This article is adapted from their book, What's Happening to the American Family?, of 5 families had at least two household members in the to be published by The Johns Hopkins University . Press, Fall 1981 . labor force-in most cases, the husband and the wife . 26 Work, marriage, and motherhood partnership or it could create new insecurities. Given these conflicting and diverse factors that may Some futurologists have assumed that the vast up- have bearing on divorce, statistical demonstration show- surge of women in the work force may portend a rejec- ing a direct positive relationship between divorce and a tion of marriage . Many women, according to this wife working is unattainable. Often studies have reached hypothesis, would rather work than marry . This "inde- the conclusion that families in which the wife is work- pendence effect" would reduce the probability that ing are no more likely to separate or divorce than women would marry as they are better able to support households in which only the husband is in the labor themselves . The converse of this concern is that the force . prospects of becoming a multi-paycheck household The relationship between the expanding female work could encourage marriages . Data show that economic force and reduced fertility rates appears to be clearer . downturns tend to postpone marriage because the With advances in family planning, a majority of wives parties cannot afford to establish a family or are con- have managed to combine motherhood with work . The cerned about rainy days ahead . As the economy re- entry of women in the work force has not led to a vast bounds and prospects improve for employment, increase in childlessness among married couples, but financial security, and advancement, the number of has led to a lower fertility rate among working wives marriages also rises . In the past, only the earnings and when other social and economic factors are taken into financial prospects of the man counted in this part of consideration . Yet some reservation may be appropriate . the marriage decision . Now, however, the earnings abili- In West Germany, for example, fertility rates of the na- ty of a woman can make her more attractive as a mar- tive population during the 1970's have declined even riage partner-a modern version of the old-fashioned more than in the United States, but with a smaller in- dowry . crease in female labor force participation . Coincident with the increase in women working out- side the home is the increase in divorce rates . Yet, it Coping with family-related duties. The wife's responsibil- may be wrong to jump to any simple cause-and-effect ities outside the home have not filtered back into a conclusions . The impact of a wife's work on divorce is major reallocation of responsibilities within the family . no less cloudy than its impact on marriage decisions . With the rising costs of household help, the option to The realization that she can be a good provider may in- pay another person to do the housework is beyond the crease the chances that a working wife will choose di - means of the vast majority . Also, there are limits as to vorce over an unsatisfactory marriage . But the reverse is the chores that can be passed on to the friendly neigh- equally plausible . Tensions grounded in financial prob- borhood supermarket clerk or appliance seller . Even lems often play a key role in ending a marriage . Given more than in the office or factory, too many household high unemployment, inflationary problems, and slow chores cannot be mechanized . Worksharing by other growth in real earnings, a working wife can increase members of the family remains largely a hope . The household income and relieve some of these pressing working wife and mother is, therefore, left to her de- financial burdens . By raising a family's standard of liv- vices to cope as wage or salary earner and unpaid ing, a working wife may bolster her family's financial houseworker . and emotional stability . When the number of hours a working wife labors Psychological factors also should be considered . For outside the home are added to the time spent on house- example, a wife blocked from a career outside the home hold chores, some studies have concluded that most may feel caged or shackled to the house-a situation working wives wind up laboring more hours per week some have dramatically likened to a pressure cooker than their husbands . Rough estimates based on data with no safety valve to release the steam. She may view from the late 1960's and early 1970's indicated that a her only choice as seeking a divorce. On the other hand, wife may average 65 hours on her combined jobs inside if she can find fulfillment through work outside the and outside the home (assuming that she holds a full- home, work and marriage can go together to create a time job in the labor market) . This exceeds the average stronger and more stable union. time husbands spent working on the job and in the Also, a major part of women's inequality in marriage home by about 8 hours per week . However, a more re- has been due to the fact that, in most cases, men have cent study based on data from the mid-1970's indicates remained the main breadwinners . With higher earnings that married women labored about the same total hours capacity and status occupations outside of the home in their combined jobs as men-roughly 60 hours per comes the capacity to wield power within the family . A week . There has been only a very small increase in the working wife may rob a husband of being the master of hours of housework done by married men (still under 3 the house . Depending upon how the couple reacts to hours per week, or one-sixth the time spent by working these new conditions, it could create a stronger equal wives) .' It is difficult to make accurate estimates of time 27 MONTHLY LABOR REVIEW September 1981 e Working Wives and Mothers use by men and women, but it appears that there still Going it alone exists a significant sexual division of labor even if total hours worked may be becoming equal for many married It appears that female-headed families will remain a men and women. significant phenomenon on the American scene. Such Just as pathologies within labor markets-such as families, despite feminist advances, are still more likely sexual discrimination-have been slow in changing, so to be poor and to experience sustained economic hard- will home adjustments to the new realities of both hus- ship . Trying to be family head, mother, and full-time band and wife working outside. For example, while member of the labor force has been a difficult challenge most men are just starting to become involved in house- for most women . Working women who head households hold responsibilities, this trend soon may be the single are at an even more disadvantage than other women. largest impact on families associated with wives enter- Single-parent families tend, however, to be a tempo- ing the labor force. In the absence of social upheavals, rary phenomenon . Data on the gross flows of women the slow evolution is toward family work roles based who become family heads indicate that this condition is more on equality and less on sexual stereotypes . Many for many women only a way station, as they later mar- working wives appear to be assuming a larger role in ry or remarry. Still, the conditions experienced by these making major family-related decisions than nonworking women and their children present serious problems cov- wives with no earnings, but again, change has been ering a wide range of social issues from welfare to labor slow . Yet, there seem to have been some changes in market discrimination . Many have found it impossible sharing responsibility and authority . to pull families out of poverty without government help . At the start of the 1970's, nearly 1 of 10 families was No turning back headed by a woman; this ratio rose to 1 of 7 families a If the survival of the family depends on women re- decade later, when more than 8 million women headed turning to the home to become full-time housewives and families . Altogether, these families accounted for 26 mil- mothers, the institution's future existence is indeed frag- lion persons, including 12 million children . Today, 17 ile . There has been no decline in the career aspirations percent of all American children are being raised in a of women, and continued progress in family planning, family headed by a woman, compared with 10 percent bedroom technology, and household management will in 1970 . let more women become both wives and mothers as Black children are far more likely than white young- well as workers outside of the home. As the potential sters to live in a home maintained by a woman. In rewards and work opportunities for women expand, the 1980, half of all black children were being raised in psychic and economic attractions in the market place such a household, compared with 12 percent of all are likely to exert even greater pull . white children . A Hispanic youngster had about a With inflationary pressures and slow growth in pro- 20-percent chance of living in this type of household. ductivity leading to sluggish gains and even occasional The reasons families had a female head also changed declines in real earnings, more families will depend on during the 1970's . Historically, widows have represent- two wage earners just to make ends meet or to finance ed the largest proportion of women who headed fami- a higher standard of living . Women in the work force, lies . At the start of the 1970's, roughly 43 percent of including the majority of married women, are in the la- female family heads were widows, twice the proportion bor force to stay, and this is not a new phenomenon . It who were divorced . By the end of the decade, divorced was only with the rise of the industrial revolution-and women accounted for 34 percent of all women who then only when it was in full swing and immigrants headed families, while widows represented 29 percent of supplied adequate and cheap labor-that wives were the total. The relative rate of women who had never viewed as full-time mothers. The current American fam- married and were heading a family had doubled during ily has a long way to go before it fully adjusts to these this period . new and shifting work patterns . The greatest changes However, the rising incidence of families headed by will be the reallocation of work responsibilities within women is not due exclusively to increasing marital in- households . A decrease of chores allocated along tradi- stability or illegitimacy . Families headed by women in- tional sexist lines coupled with women sharing more ef- creased by nearly 2 million between 1940 and 1970 . fectively in the family decision process are the primary About two-fifths of the increase is attributed to the pro- adjustments that will be made . These changes-unlike pensity of women to form separate households rather fads which come and go-will probably have some of than share housing with relatives. This pattern contin- the deepest and most lasting effects on the family insti- ued during the 1970's, when more than half of the tution and on American society. Instead of dissolution, households with a female head were formed for this rea- they offer real opportunities for improved, more stable, son. Income-support programs also may have boosted and richer lives within families . the growing ranks of women who head families, as did 28 more out-of-wedlock births and, of course, general pop- women and 21 percent of black women. ulation increase . Economic problems. The transition from a husband-wife Economic realities family to head of a household often creates dire eco- Of the major differences that exist between house- nomic problems which the women who head the new holds headed by women and those of married couples, households often cannot solve without outside aid . For distinctions based on income are easiest to quantify . the older age cohort, the average household income for Poverty haunts only 1 of 19 husband-wife families and white families that experienced this disruption declined 1 of 9 families maintained by men ; but about 1 of 3 by 49 percent over the survey period . While the average families headed by women live in destitution . income of black families fell by only 38 percent, their Beyond the higher prevalence of poverty, the entire income prior to disruption of the family was only about income distribution of families headed by women is two-thirds of the average for the white households . This lower than that of other kinds of families . In 1979, same condition is also true for women in the younger about 4 of 5 families headed by women had earned in- age cohort . comes under $15,000, compared with 3 of 10 of all hus- band-wife families and 1 of 3 families headed by men. Employment patterns. Labor force patterns of women The median income of the families women head is who experience marital disruption is quite different for less than half that of husband-wife households . Where whites and blacks for both the younger and older wom- dependent children are involved, the median drops to en . When their marriages ended, the older cohort of one-third. If a female family head has a child under 6 white wives increased their labor force participation rate years, her family income on average is only two-fifths of from 58 percent to 70 percent . For black women, just that for a household headed by a woman with no the opposite happened : their rate fell from more than 80 youngsters . percent to 69 percent . Transition patterns also differ for Coupled with this factor are the younger ages of the black and white women concerning their seeking occu- women who are heading families . About 4 of 7 of the pational training . When they became family heads, the children who live in a household headed by a woman number of the older women who obtained training in- have a mother who is under 35 years. These younger creased by more than 40 percent for whites but fell by women, who have a greater chance of having a child, 37 percent for blacks . For younger white women, the represented 28 percent of all families headed by women labor force participation rate climbed from 51 percent in 1970. By 1979, this younger group had grown to rep- to 68 percent after the disruption . Younger black wom- resent 37 percent of the families headed by women. en, unlike their older counterparts, experienced a de- National longitudinal data, which have followed fe- cline in participation rates after divorce, but it rose male cohorts for several years, have increased our much less than that for the young white women-from knowledge about families women head. Data tracking 46 percent to 53 percent . For younger white women af- the same women-as they go through a dissolution of ter divorce, the chances of resorting to training in- husband-wife family and then try making it on their creased by 23 percent, while for younger black women own-give a clearer picture of this dynamic process it fell by 13 percent . than information based on cross-sectional estimates. Even if a female family head lands a job, her earnings The national longitudinal surveys at Ohio State Univer- are not likely to make up for the income lost because a sity included interviews with a nationally representative husband has left . Average per capital income will de- sample of more than 5,000 women under 25 years and cline by 20 percent for white families and 13 percent for 30 to 44 years at the time of the first interview (1967 black families .' and 1968, respectively) . These women were interviewed annually or biennially, and the data provided a time Transfer payments. Families headed by women depend path of their experiences over 10 years . Some of the on transfer payments as a major source of income. most important features indicated by longitudinal data About 16 percent of all white female heads and 48 per- concerning families women . head are :' cent of black female heads receive public welfare pay- ments . More than 23 percent of the white women who Temporary status. There is a large flow of women who headed families, and 19 percent of the black women re- move into and out of being heads of families, and few ceived social security or disability payments . One-third women remain in this condition for an extended period . of the poor white female heads and more than 50 per- Over the first 5 years, the surveys found that as many cent of poor black female heads received at least half of as 16 percent of all adult women sampled were heading their household income from public income transfer a household . However, only 9 percent were household programs . On average, earnings by a female head pro- heads during the entire period : 6 percent of the white vided only about one-third of household income for 29 MONTHLY LABOR REVIEW September 1981 a Working Wives and Mothers families living in poverty and about three-fifths for come tax codes are a prime example: in 1979, the esti- those above the poverty line .a mated tax liability of 16 million couples exceeded $8 Thus, whatever other advantages a woman perceives billion, solely because they were married. Even couples in single parenthood over a bad marriage, most families with a relatively low family income pay a marriage tax headed by women find the going very rough economi- penalty if there are several wage earners in the house- cally. Even when they combine work with welfare and hold . The marriage tax penalty in 1980 for a couple other transfer payments, many female heads of house- with a combined income of $40,000 was $1,900 (assum- holds can barely lift their families out of poverty-and ing standard deductions), while for a $10,000-a-year a significant number live below the poverty threshold . couple, the extra tax liability was more than $200 . The word family, at one time, evoked a picture of a Whatever its equity and costs, there is little evidence husband, a wife, and their children living together in that the marriage tax has had a statistically significant one household . Now, a variety of cameos surround the impact on marriage, but it may affect work decisions. central picture. None of the cameos, however, portray Other laws (including social security) affecting family the extended family that many analysts had anticipated income and work decisions are based on the assumption because they believed a separated woman would return that the husband would work while the wife became a to her parents' or grandparents' household, taking her full-time housewife. Social security laws also assume children with her. An increasing percentage of never- that, once married, the couples would stay together . married or formerly married mothers are heading their One problem with the social security system is that a own households instead of living as a subfamily unit in wife's earnings result in higher total family benefits only someone else's household, emphasizing the precarious if her entitlement exceeds 50 percent of her spouse's status of families headed by women. In extended fami- benefits . In most cases, the two-earner couple pays far lies, a divorced, separated, or never-married mother more into the system than a one-earner couple, but re- could count on the financial and social support of other ceives only a marginal increase in benefits . adult family members to help provide for basic needs Many other social policies are based on family-related and ease such problems as child care. Today, if a wom- assumptions which existed in a bygone age. But Ameri- an decides, or is forced by circumstances, to separate or can households have become highly pluralistic, and gov- divorce, the chances are that she will have to head her ernment programs will have to be attuned to the own household. different needs and problems of various types of fami- There are some indications that the increase in the lies . A comprehensive family policy has been impossible single-parent household will not be as swift in the to fashion because interested parties cannot agree on 1980'' as it was in the 1960's and 1970's . The view that even the basic goals. While one policy may seem more the woman should seek liberation outside a husband- dramatic, incremental reform of the already existing wife family is not shared by the vast majority of female system may be the most realistic approach to help fami- family heads. Nor is it correct to conclude that those lies during this rough period of transition . women who remain family heads do so by choice . Shifting work roles are altering family life, and chang- When questioned, long-term female family heads most es in living arrangements are having a feedback effect on often indicated that their current household structure is labor markets. Whether the family is better off because not their first choice .' of the changes depends, in large measure, on personal value judgments. Public policies can ease the transition, Policy changes needed but such policies should consider that there is no longer Social policies can have a significant impact on the one dominant family type . Despite problems, the family work and living decisions of households, even those that remains a resilient institution . Most Americans live in are well above the poverty threshold. The Federal in- families, and will continue to do so . El FOOTNOTES Sandra L. Hofferth and Kristin A. Moore, "Women's Employ- quences of Marital Breakdown," in Frank L. Mott, ed ., Women, ment and Marriage," in Ralph W. Smith, ed ., The Subtle Revolution Work, and Family (Lexington, Mass ., Lexington Books, 1978), pp . (Washington, The Urban Institute, 1979), pp. 113-15 ; and Frank P. 123-24 . Stafford, "Women's use of time converging with men's," Monthly La- bor Review, December 1980, pp. 57-58. ' Liz B. Shaw, Economic Consequences of Marital Disruption _ (Columbus, Ohio State University, Center for Human Resource Re- Frank L. Mott, The Socioeconomic Status of Households Headed by search, 1978), pp . 16 and 19 . Women (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1979), pp . 10, 29, 45, and 52 . `Christopher Lasch, Haven in a Heartless World. The Family ' Frank L. Mott and Sylvia F. Moore, "The Causes and Conse- Besieged (New York, Basic Books, 1977), p. 162. 30
Pages to are hidden for
"Working Wives and Mothers What Happens to Family Life"Please download to view full document