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Declining Significance of Gender?, The

Declining Significance of Gender?, The

Francine D. Blau
Mary C. Brinton
David B. Grusky
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 312
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    Declining Significance of Gender?, The
    Book Description:

    Today, a third of American children are born outside of marriage, up from one child in twenty in the 1950s, and rates are even higher among low-income Americans. Many herald this trend as one of the most troubling of our time. But the decline in marriage does not necessarily signal the demise of the two parent family—over 80 percent of unmarried couples are still romantically involved when their child is born and nearly half are living together. Most claim they plan to marry eventually. Yet half have broken up by their child's third birthday. What keeps some couples together and what tears others apart? After a breakup, how do fathers so often disappear from their children's lives? An intimate portrait of the challenges of partnering and parenting in these families, Unmarried Couples with Children presents a variety of unique findings. Most of the pregnancies were not explicitly planned, but some couples feel having a child is the natural course of a serious relationship. Many of the parents are living with their child plus the mother’s child from a previous relationship. When the father also has children from a previous relationship, his visits to see them at their mother’s house often cause his current partner to be jealous. Breakups are more often driven by sexual infidelity or conflict than economic problems. After couples break up, many fathers complain they are shut out, especially when the mother has a new partner. For their part, mothers claim to limit dads’ access to their children because of their involvement with crime, drugs, or other dangers. For couples living together with their child several years after the birth, marriage remains an aspiration, but something couples are resolutely unwilling to enter without the financial stability they see as a sine qua non of marriage. They also hold marriage to a high relational standard, and not enough emotional attention from their partners is women’s number one complaint. Unmarried Couples with Children is a landmark study of the family lives of nearly fifty American children born outside of a marital union at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Based on personal narratives gathered from both mothers and fathers over the first four years of their children’s lives, and told partly in the couples' own words, the story begins before the child is conceived, takes the reader through the tumultuous months of pregnancy to the moment of birth, and on through the child's fourth birthday. It captures in rich detail the complex relationship dynamics and powerful social forces that derail the plans of so many unmarried parents. The volume injects some much-needed reality into the national discussion about family values, and reveals that the issues are more complex than our political discourse suggests.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-062-2
    Subjects: Business, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    Francine D. Blau, Mary C. Brinton and David B. Grusky

    • Chapter 1 The Declining Significance of Gender?
      (pp. 3-34)
      Francine D. Blau, Mary C. Brinton and David B. Grusky

      In the typical life history of a social revolution, the initial revolutionary ardor proves to be sustainable for only so long, and gradually sentiment grows that the revolution has stalled or run its course. We appear to be entering just such a period of pessimism about the future of the ongoing “gender revolution.” After a half-century of dramatic reductions in the gender pay gap and other forms of gender inequality, we now find ourselves poised at a crossroads in which two very plausible futures appear before us, an “optimistic scenario” which assumes that the remaining (and very substantial) gender inequalities...


    • Chapter 2 The Gender Pay Gap: Going, Going . . . but Not Gone
      (pp. 37-66)
      Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn

      As the title of our chapter implies, the trends in the gender pay gap in the United States form a somewhat mixed picture. On the one hand, after nearly half a century of stability in the earnings of women relative to men, starting in 1930, there has been since the late seventies a substantial increase in women’s relative earnings.¹ What makes this development especially dramatic and significant is that the recent changes contrast markedly with the relative stability of earlier years. Moreover, while not the focus of our attention here, it is worth mentioning that since the seventies there have...

    • Chapter 3 The Rising (and then Declining) Significance of Gender
      (pp. 67-101)
      Claudia Goldin

      Women now constitute almost half of the United States labor force. About 80 percent of women twenty-five to forty-four years old work for pay and 85 to 90 percent of female college graduates do. Looking across the full twentieth century the gender gap in labor-force participation has nearly closed (figure 3.1), and the gap in earnings has narrowed considerably, especially in the last twenty years (figure 3.2). One might be tempted to conclude that there has been a continual declining significance of gender in the labor market for the past hundred years or possibly longer.

      But for some time before...

    • Chapter 4 How the Life-Cycle Human-Capital Model Explains Why the Gender Wage Gap Narrowed
      (pp. 102-124)
      Solomon W. Polachek

      Married women’s labor-force participation rose dramatically from 4.6 percent in 1890 to 61.0 percent in 2003. This rapid rise in female labor-force participation constitutes the single most noteworthy labor-market trend in the United States over the last century. Women are now over fifteen times more likely to be in the labor force than they were a hundred years ago. At the same time, men’s labor-force participation declined moderately, from 84.3 percent in 1890 to 73.5 percent in 2003.¹ Concomitant with these two labor-force participation trends, the female-to-male wage ratio rose (albeit more erratically), from 34 percent in 1890 to about...

    • Chapter 5 How Much Progress in Closing the Long-Term Earnings Gap?
      (pp. 125-155)
      Heidi Hartmann, Stephen J. Rose and Vicky Lovell

      In this era of economic progress for women, when women are narrowing the wage gap with men, working more years and more hours per year, and entering previously male-dominated occupations, some argue that women now have all the equality they want—that any remaining differences between women and men in their economic behavior are a matter of personal preferences—some argue that further progress to achieve full equality is proceeding apace and is, indeed, inevitable, and some argue that women still have a long way to go, facing difficult barriers, with the timing or scale of the outcome by no...

    • Chapter 6 The Glass Ceiling in the United States and Sweden: Lessons from the Family-Friendly Corner of the World, 1970 to 1990
      (pp. 156-212)
      Eva M. Meyersson Milgrom and Trond Petersen

      There is a dearth of women in top ranks within the professions and management, and the barriers to women’s attaining these top ranks are often referred to as the glass ceiling. In this chapter we shall analyze and compare the glass-ceiling phenomenon in the United States and Sweden. To quantify and analyze this gender rank gap and explain the existence of this glass ceiling, we consider the following questions: What is the effect of gender on the job rank reached? To what extent do other individual factors, such as age, education, work hours, and part- or full-time status, explain the...


    • Chapter 7 Opposing Forces: How, Why, and When Will Gender Inequality Disappear?
      (pp. 215-244)
      Robert Max Jackson

      What does the future hold for gender inequality? In the United States and many other countries, women’s status has improved remarkably over the past two centuries. Will we continue to move ever closer to full gender equality? Or could gender relations stagnate where they are or even move backward?

      That gender remains a crucial aspect of social organization is not in question. In all too many parts of the world women are exposed to humiliations ranging from mockery to rape, from small rituals curtailing their freedom to absolute limitations in what they can do, what they can wear, whom they...

    • Chapter 8 Toward Gender Equality: Progress and Bottlenecks
      (pp. 245-264)
      Paula England

      Is the significance of gender declining in America? Are men’s and women’s lives and rewards becoming more similar? To answer this question, I examine trends in market work and unpaid household work, including child care. I consider whether men’s and women’s employment and hours in paid work are converging, and examine trends in occupational sex segregation and the sex gap in pay. I also consider trends in men’s and women’s hours of paid work and household work. The emergent picture is one of convergence within each of the two areas of paid and unpaid work. Yet progress is not continuous...

    • Chapter 9 Gender as an Organizing Force in Social Relations: Implications for the Future of Inequality
      (pp. 265-288)
      Cecilia L. Ridgeway

      Although it has hardly disappeared, gender inequality in the labor market has declined noticeably in recent decades, by most standard indicators. Inequality is declining in labor-force participation rates, wages, and occupational sex segregation, even though considerable sex segregation remains, especially at the job and firm level (Jacobs 1999; Petersen and Morgan 1995; Reskin and Padavic 1999). A debate now centers on the nature of the forces behind these changes and their implications for the future. Are the forces that have been and are undermining gender inequality now unstoppable, as recent arguments posit (Jackson 1998)? Is the significance of gender as...

  8. Index
    (pp. 289-302)