Might the Gender Revolution Strengthen the Family?
by: Andrew Cherlin, Johns Hopkins University & Fran Goldscheider, Maryland Population Research Center
MPRC will present an interactive panel session with guest speaker Prof. Andrew Cherlin, Benjamin H. Griswold III Professor of Public Policy & Chair of Sociology, Johns Hopkins University, and Frances Goldscheider, Prof. Emerita, Brown University and MPRC Faculty Associate. The two will review the trends in marriage dynamics from the Industrial Revolution.
Until about 150 years ago, men and women were partners, working together to support themselves and their children in agricultural households all over the world. There were no separate spheres. But with the Industrial Revolution, men could support their families better by moving out into nonagricultural employment, but which also meant leaving daily face-to-face contact with their wives and children. As a result, their lives diverged and the imagery of the separate spheres emerged and intensified, reaching a peak in the middle of the 20th century, a legacy we have been dealing with ever since. Meanwhile, much as men did, but about 100 years later in the US, women also found that with the growth of new earning opportunities, they could care for their families better by taking paid jobs, taking them away from all day family lives, too. With both parents employed in most families, however, the family has been under pressure, as women find themselves carrying a “second shift” of paid and unpaid household work, reducing couple commitment and childrearing. Divorce rates rose, and marriage and birth rates fell. Now, theorists such as Frances Goldscheider are arguing that a new equilibrium is emerging under the “gender revolution.” With men doing more at home, marriages may once again be more attractive to young adults and longer-lasting. Birth rates may stabilize or even increase. Is this the future? Or are there strong forces that will prevent this future, such as the absence of strong, family-friendly policies, and high levels of inequality? What might this new era look like in the United States? Goldscheider will elaborate on her writings at this seminar, and Andrew Cherlin will offer some thoughts on why the new equilibrium may not emerge as strongly and as uniformly as some observers predict.
Contact Jennifer Doiron with questions: jdoiron1 [at] umd.edu