A briefing paper prepared for the Council on Contemporary Families Online Symposium on Gender and Millennials, originally released March 31, 2017. 

The 2016 election occasioned much debate about how strongly Americans support gender equality. Was this election “a referendum on gender,” as a Newsweek article claimed, one that “women lost”? Or was it just bad luck and campaign missteps? Now that Women’s History Month is over, the Council on Contemporary Families takes a look at the complexities involved in assessing the future of gender equality.

One reason political forecasters did poorly last year was that they ignored growing alienation among their traditional supporters. New research by sociologists Joanna Pepin of the University of Maryland and David Cotter of Union College suggests that those who have been counting on the younger generation to complete the gender revolution may be making the same mistake. For CCF’s Gender and Millennials Online Symposium, Pepin and Cotter summarize their findings in the lead briefing paper, and five other researchers comment.

Whoa! Looks like young adults are less supportive of equality at home than at work. People frequently attribute the dramatic increase in support for gender equality since 1977 to generational replacement, assuming it will continue as the so-called Millennials, born between 1982 and the early 2000s, come to dominate the population. But examining almost 40 years of surveys taken of high-school seniors, Pepin and Cotter report that fewer youths now express support for gender equality than did their Gen-X counterparts back in the mid-1990s.

Since the 1990s, nearly 90 percent of every class of high-school seniors has supported the principle that women should have exactly the same opportunities as men in business and politics. However, when it comes to home life, youths have become more conservative since the mid-1990s. In 1994, only 42 percent of high-school seniors expressed the belief that the best family was one where the man was the outside achiever and the woman took care of the home. In 2014, 58 percent said this was true.

Black high-school seniors and females, in general, were more likely than White males to give egalitarian answers throughout the years of the survey, but all sectors of students became more conservative between 1994 and 2014. Pepin and Cotter suggest that this across-the-board increase in support for traditionalism helps explain the stall in women’s workforce participation and in occupational desegregation.

A growing gender gap among youth in their early 20s. CCF research intern Nika Fate-Dixon examined the General Social Survey (which has reported on the same questions for 40 years and breaks the answers down by age) to see whether similar changes had occurred among the next-oldest age group, those 18-to-25. She found that by 1994, 84 percent had come to disagree with the claim that a woman’s place was in the home. In 2014, however, the percent disagreeing had dropped to three-quarters.

In the GSS survey, the decline in egalitarianism was driven primarily by young men, who went from 83 percent rejecting the superiority of the male-breadwinner family in 1994 to only 55 percent doing so in 2014. Women’s disagreement with this claim fell far less sharply, and their confidence that an employed woman could successfully parent a preschool child increased slightly over the period, while men’s confidence dropped.

A dip in gender egalitarianism revealed by the election? As for the larger group of young adults aged 18 to 30, they were the only age group to decisively favor Hillary Clinton in the election. Yet according to an analysis of exit polls prepared for this symposium by Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Director of Tuft University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE), their support for a White woman in 2016 was 10 percentage points lower than their vote for a Black man in 2008, suggesting a dip in enthusiasm for gender equality here as well. Only 25 percent of the women Millennial voters and 15 percent of the males identified as feminists.

Are new cultural values on the rise? Pepin and Cotter argue that most Americans have rejected the ideology of inherent gender difference that dominated American culture from the early 19th century up through the 1950s and remained embedded in law well into the 1970s. According to this view, women were best suited to raise children and society should protect home life by limiting women’s access to the public sphere of work, politics, and higher education.

But although Americans now overwhelmingly agree that society has no right to deny opportunities to individuals on the basis of their sex, many are uncomfortable with the idea that men and women can be interchangeable in the tasks they perform at home and at work. Pepin and Cotter suggest that the changing views of high school seniors since 1994 reflect the growing appeal of a hybrid ideology they call “egalitarian essentialism.” This combines a commitment to equality of opportunity with the belief that men and women typically choose different opportunities because men are “inherently better suited to some roles and women to others.” Egalitarian essentialism assumes that as long as women are not prevented from choosing high-powered careers, or forced out of them upon parenthood, their individual choices are freely made and are probably for the best.

CIRCLE’s 2016 exit polls found that only 20 percent of Millennial women disagreed with the statement that feminism “is about personal choice, not politics.” This represents a sharp departure from the 1970s feminist slogan “the personal is political,” with its insistence that personal choices often reflect political and economic constraints that should be removed.

…or have women’s gains provoked a backlash? Other contributors propose alternative interpretations of the decline in support for egalitarian domestic arrangements. Political scientist Dan Cassino suggests that the growth in women’s earnings power may have led some threatened males (and sympathetic females) to seek other ways to shore up masculine identity. Youth who have witnessed financial role reversals in their own families or communities may have felt a renewed need to validate men’s leadership in family finances and decision-making. Cassino’s research shows that many men react negatively to women’s economic gains. During the 2016 primaries, he asked prospective voters questions designed to direct their attention to how many women now earn more money than men. Men who were reminded of this threat to traditional masculine identity became less likely to express a preference for Hillary Clinton, though not for Bernie Sanders.

When masculinity is threatened, Republican men get more conservative, Democrats more liberal. Not all men react to threats to traditional masculine identity in the same way, however. In another study, Cassino was able to identify marriages in which a husband’s earnings fell substantially relative to his wife’s. And he was also able to track changes in these husbands’ responses to two political questions that generally divide liberals and conservatives. He found that men who were Democrats became more liberal as their share of household earnings fell, while Republican men became more conservative, perhaps explaining the increase in “strong” agreement with traditional values that Fate-Dixon describes. (Interestingly, Democratic men whose earnings rose substantially compared to their wives also became more conservative, illustrating the feedback effect between changing structural conditions and changing values.)

But wait: Married couples are less threatened by women’s gains than in the past. Is support for traditionalism a reaction to inadequate social policies?

University of Utah assistant professor of family and consumer studies Dan Carlson objects that Millennials who have embarked on family life seem less threatened by women’s gains relative to men than were couples in earlier decades. Since the 1990s, the higher risk of divorce for couples where the wife earns more than her husband has disappeared. And in contrast to the past, couples where husband and wife equally divide family chores and child-rearing now report the greatest marital and sexual satisfaction.

Carlson argues that the increase in young adults’ agreement that male-breadwinner families “are better for everyone concerned” may reflect the difficulties many families have had in sustaining egalitarian relationships in the current political and economic climate. When a man loses his job and the family reverses the conventional male-breadwinner arrangement, with the woman becoming the breadwinner and the man taking care of the family, this tends to create high levels of marital dissatisfaction. In other cases, young people may have watched the conflicts that arise when their parents struggle to share breadwinning and child-raising in the absence of supportive work-family policies and concluded that, whatever their ideal preferences, the reality of trying to share responsibilities is too stressful.

This interpretation finds some support in University of Leuven researcher Jan Van Bavel’s examination of European public opinion surveys. In Europe, where substantial public investments in affordable childcare and guaranteed paid leaves are now the norm, support for gender equality has continued to rise among all age groups. Van Bavel predicts this will continue. He argues that as women increasingly come to marriage with more education than their partners and have access to policies allowing them to integrate work and family responsibilities, they are less likely to cut back their work commitments after having children, further eroding the cultural norm of male breadwinning.

Even in the United States, the seeming stall in women’s workforce participation may mask important changes, according to a new paper by economists Claudia Goldin and Joshua Mitchell. As women enter motherhood at a later age, they work longer before taking time off for parenting. And the longer women work prior to having children, the longer they tend to work once they return. Furthermore, fewer women actually quit their jobs after a first birth, and more take leaves that make it easier for them to return to full-time employment in the same job. The proportion of women who quit their jobs around the time of the birth of their first child decreased from 30 percent in the 1980s to 22 percent in the early 2000s.

The problem with claims about “the” Millennials. Sociologist Frank Furstenberg criticizes the over-generalizations often made about “the” attitudes of such a diverse group as the Millennials and notes that the 18-to-25-year-olds interviewed in 2014 are not really comparable to those interviewed in 1994, being far less likely to be married or employed in permanent jobs. Their attitudes could go either way, depending on the economic and political changes that occur over the next several years.

Finally, as CCF Board President Barbara Risman observes, people are full of inconsistencies that may not be captured in their responses to single issues. When Risman did lengthy interviews with Millennials for a forthcoming book, she was struck by the wildly contradictory expectations about gender and family life that many of them expressed over the course of a single conversation. “You can read through a life history interview,” she reports, “and really not believe the same person is talking about themselves, what they think others expect of them because they are male or female, and what they expect from others in their relationships.” Those contradictions in people’s worldviews and sense of identity, Risman argues, offer opportunities for youths to imagine new possibilities as they encounter new experiences and new ideas. But as Pepin and Cotter warn, they also open the way to nostalgia for gender arrangements of the past, especially if youths continue to believe that their personal choices are not political.

Update: After this symposium was posted, 2016 data from the General Social Survey became available. The latest numbers show a sharp rebound in young men’s disagreement with the claim that male-breadwinner families are superior. GSS two-year trends are exceptionally volatile, due to the small size of the sample, and the overall decade averages still confirm a rise in traditionalism among 18-to-25-year-olds since the 1990s. But the new data shows that this rise is no longer driven mainly by young men, as it appeared to be in the General Social Survey results from 1994 through 2014. Nevertheless, other evidence for a Millennial gender gap still stands, so stay tuned for more updates on this moving target.

Stephanie Coontz is a CCF Director of Research and Education, and a Professor of History at The Evergreen State College.

photo credit: Marko Lovric via pixabay

When a person is sent to prison they leave a community behind. And few of the studies of mass incarceration in the U.S. examine the prison system and families. Consider, for example, how incarceration triggers the termination of an incarcerated parent’s parental rights.

What is the extent of the problem? Data on the punitive impact of child welfare policies on families of incarcerated parents are either overly broad or just plain old and outdated. For example, some of the most recent research states that there are between 29,000 and 51,000 children in foster care who have incarcerated parents. But seek more information and the picture gets hazy. More research, even just constructing a database from data kept in separate state systems, would help.

I discovered this when I started to study the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act. From 1995, before the Act, to 2004 adoption rates in the U.S. doubled. This may be due to the financial incentives offered by the federal government to states that had increased their number of adoptions. But the provision in the Act stating that if a child has been in state care (i.e. foster care) for 15 of the last 22 months the state must move to terminate the parent’s parental rights has had a harsh effect on incarcerated parents, leading to untold numbers of family termination.

You see, non-incarcerated parents (“outsiders”) have access to exemptions to the time-based termination provisions. For instance, outsiders, who can regularly visit their child, are empowered to use that as evidence of connection. But incarcerated parents are not in control of whether or not they see their child.

The Act’s time limit provisions that trigger adoption were passed at the same time that incarceration rates were growing. The War on Drugs that began in the 1970’s turned drug abuse, which was once a public health issue, into a law enforcement issue. Cue the rise of mandatory minimums. In the early years of mandatory minimums, possession of five grams of crack cocaine (a drug that happened to be more common in low-income areas, which often have a large minority population) got you a minimum of five years.

Today, under federal policy 100 grams of a substance containing heroin results in a mandatory minimum of five years. However, if a defendant meets certain criteria (e.g. fully cooperated with the government and is a first time offender, etc.) they could get a reduced sentence. Yet, even a reduced sentence would still be between twenty-four to thirty months. If parental rights are challenged when a child is in state care 15 of the last 22 months, and the mandatory minimum is five years (24 to 30 months if you’re lucky) what chances have these policies given families?

As of March 2016 2.3 million people were in some form of corrections facility in the United States. New policies, aiming to create more reasonable sentencing laws, have been introduced in Congress such as the Mandatory Minimum Act of 2015. However, such bills still need to get through the House, the Senate, and the President. Given the uncertainty of the President elect’s intentions, and the clear racial animosity he and his coalition have displayed throughout his campaign, sentencing reform is now precarious. Meanwhile families remain and continue to become separated. Early commentary suggests that sentencing reform is dead. My question is what steps, if any, will we take to help mend the families separated due to the combination of The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 and unabated mass incarceration? Because it is clear that mass incarceration is family policy.

Megan Peterson is a 2017 graduate in sociology from Framingham State University and a Council on Contemporary Families Public Affairs and Social Media Intern.

Photo via Rowman & Littlefield

In the extensive discussion of crime and race in the U.S., Asian/American experiences are rarely considered. Asian/Americans—a diverse group—are neglected in studies, analyses, and media representations. A new book, Asian/Americans, Education, and Crime: The Model Minority as Victim and Perpetrator, edited by Daisy Ball and Nicholas Hartlep, aims to address this gap. A chief issue is the distortion generated by the “model minority” stereotype.

As Professor Ball discussed in our short interview, growing up under the shadow of a stereotype—those seemingly positive as well as negative—shapes the experiences of Asian/Americans. The pressure to live up to a stereotype can lead to strain on families. Indeed, individual Asian/Americans get more coverage when they fit the stereotype, and this deters a full understanding of the diverse and divergent realities of Asian/Americans. My conversation with Daisy Ball, a professor of sociology and coordinator of criminology at Framingham State University, brought this all into focus.

TC:  Your book focuses on Asian/Americans’ criminal involvement as well as how they are treated by the police. Why did you decide to investigate this topic?

DB: The idea for this book comes from two main sources: The first source was current conversations regarding race and crime, including police use of force and the responding #BlackLivesMatter movement. My co-editor, Nicholas Hartlep, and I follow these conversations closely. As the discussions increased and the voices of activists became louder (which we were thrilled to hear), we noticed conversations regarding Asian/Americans’ criminal justice involvement were absent.

As Stacey Lee (2009) notes, Asian/Americans are typically cast as the “model minority”: good students, conformist, and law-abiding. Unlike African Americans and Latinx, Asian/Americans are a racial minority group in the U.S. that are decidedly not associated with crime. Instead, they are associated with educational and economic success. Through our book, we seek to add to the current conversation regarding race and crime by focusing specifically on Asian/Americans and criminal justice involvement. In reality, Asian/Americans are the victims and perpetrators of crime as well as victims of unjust criminal justice practices.

Second, the idea for this book stems out of my greater body of research, specifically my examination of the aftermath for Asian/American undergraduates at Virginia Tech following two horrific crimes: the 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre (the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history), and a beheading that took place on campus eighteen months after the massacre. In both cases, the perpetrator was of Asian descent. Following these crimes, the community spoke out—via emails, letters to the editor, and blog posts—against people of Asian descent studying at Virginia Tech. The conversation became so hostile that then-president of the university, Charles Steger, published an open letter to the campus community in which he asked for tolerance towards Asian/Americans and Asian nationals studying at Virginia Tech.

In my examination of the aftermath of these sensational crimes, I am interested in how members of a group typically stereotyped as the “model minority” respond when faced with a much more negative stereotype, that of “criminal threat.” So you can see how my book on Asian/American criminal justice involvement from various vantage points is linked to exceptional ways of looking at Asian/American experiences in these other sensational contexts.

TC: As mentioned in your book, there are a lack of studies, media representation, and analyses surrounding Asian/Americans which ultimately leaves them being misunderstood and misinterpreted. Do you believe this leaves a daily impact on Asian/American families? 

DB: Certainly. As I mentioned, although our society devotes considerable attention to criminal justice issues, Asian/Americans are largely absent from such conversations. This is problematic: although Asian/Americans are the victims of crime, they are often not consulted about their victimization by the media, or by the police. Oftentimes, when police arrive at the scene of a crime, they assume the Asian/Americans present do not speak English, and therefore turn to whites for information about what has occurred. At the same time, we know that Asian/Americans, in addition to being victims of crime, are the perpetrators of crime. Yet their histories, perspectives, and accounts from their family members rarely make the news to the same degree that members of mainstream culture do.

As several of the chapters in our book demonstrate, the more foreign an Asian/American or Asian national victim is perceived to be—by the community, by the media, by the police—the less coverage, care, and/or attention they receive. For example, in his chapter “Newspaper Portrayals and Emotional Connection Strategies: Commemorating Model Minority Murder Victims,” Alexander Lu illustrates that the more Asian national murder victims conform to the model minority stereotype, the more positive attention their cases receive, and the more they are memorialized by the community in which the crime occurs. In terms of the family, one way family members of victims are impacted by crime is the degree to which they are given a voice after the crime has occurred. Lu compares the murders of Won-Joon Yoon and Deepak Sharma, two young Asian national male graduate students studying in the U.S. Based on his analysis of the two cases, Lu concludes that because Yoon closely fit the construction of the model minority stereotype, he received considerably more media coverage, and was memorialized at several community-wide commemorations. Through media coverage and commemoration of his murder, his family was given repeated opportunities to speak out about Yoon. Conversely, because Sharma did not conform to the stereotype of the model minority, his murder received scant attention, and his family’s voice was essentially silenced when it came to speaking out about Sharma. The only exception was when his father was quoted in a Hindustan Times article about the logistics of transporting Sharma’s body back to India for last rites.

In her chapter, “Anonymous Victims and Invisible Communities: U.S. Media Portrayals of Chinese International Students Involved in Homicide,” Ke Li illustrates that when it comes to news media coverage of crimes involving Chinese international students, the crime is rarely considered from the vantage point of the international student. The Chinese students themselves are not asked, nor are their family members, friends, classmates, and professors, for input about what happened. Instead, more mainstream members of the community, such as police officers and their affiliates, are asked to interpret the crime. What results is an imbalanced portrait of the crime, for the story is only being told from the mainstream (most often white) perspective. This phenomenon is naturally a frustrating experience for grieving family members.

TC: One common stereotype of those who are of Asian descent is “being intelligent.” Your book brings to light how this is part of the way in which Asian/Americans are seen as the “model minority” and how the stereotyping “ignores both the history of discrimination and the contemporary problems faced by Asian/Americans.” Knowing that, how do you think this affects Asian/American families today?

DB: I think that growing up under the shadow of this stereotype, and/or raising children in the shadow of this stereotype, is challenging for Asian/American families today. Although at the outset, the model minority stereotype appears to be positive, much of the literature in Asian/American studies illustrates that this stereotype is detrimental to those to whom it is applied. The “double-edged sword” nature of this stereotype has been widely demonstrated in the literature (for example, see Lee 2009; Zakeri 2015; Feagin and Chou 2016). The assumption that Asian/Americans are a monolithic group, a group whose members are all succeeding, has caused members of this group to be overlooked when it comes to a variety of social services, which has undoubtedly put strain on modern Asian/American families.

Based on several research projects I’ve conducted with Asian/American undergraduates, there is intense pressure on Asian/American students to succeed—from early-on in their academic careers, through graduate school and beyond. Interestingly, many of my respondents deny the fact that parental/family pressure is problematic for them; they first acknowledge that it exists, and then brush it off as an aside, or couch it in humor (“that’s just what parents do, no big deal”). One of the puzzles I’m currently exploring is why my respondents tell the stories they do—acknowledging that the pressure exists, but then contrary to the literature in the field, denying the pressure is anything serious or anything to worry about, or causes challenges of any kind for them. Some possibilities to explore include interviewer effects (i.e. that I am a white woman interviewing Asian/American students); the possibility that the Asian/American studies literature has overblown the detrimental nature of the model minority stereotype; and/or the possibility that the students in my sample are just unique in some way, and that is why their responses do not align with the literature.


Note: Professor Ball joins Roanoke College’s Department of Public Affairs faculty in Fall 2017.

Tasia Clemons is a Senior sociology major at Framingham State University, an Administrative Resident Assistant, and a CCF Public Affairs Intern.


Fact Sheet via diversitydatakids.org

The birth or adoption of a child, the serious illness of a parent, one’s own health emergency. There are health and medical occasions, both joyous and difficult, which require workers to take time off to care and heal. Yet not all people can take the time they need.

Nearly all industrialized nations recognize the necessity of time by guaranteeing paid family and medical leave. The U.S. does not. Paid family and medical leave policy provides extended partially paid time off from work in the event of workers’ own or a close family member’s serious medical condition. A growing number of U.S. workers have access to paid family and medical leave from state or local polices or through their employers. However, most workers do not have access to any paid family or medical leave.

Although the U.S. lacks national paid family and medical leave policy, it does have national unpaid leave. In 1993 the U.S. passed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an important law which guarantees twelve weeks of unpaid family and medical leave for qualifying employees who need to provide care for themselves or a close family member.

In the event they need to take family and medical leave, the FMLA provides eligible employees with two primary protections: retention of health insurance (if insurance is provided by the employer) and job protection, meaning that upon return from leave employees are restored to the same or an equivalent position. A key caveat of the FMLA is that most workers do not meet the eligibility requirements necessary to gain access to these protections. At diversitydatakids.org, our research finds that that less than half (45 percent) of all workers (including the self-employed) are eligible for FMLA and that there are inequities in eligibility.

Beyond eligibility, for many families, forgoing pay for up to 12 weeks, even in the midst of serious health needs, is highly unrealistic. Workers may rely on sick days, vacation time, or other types of paid time off, but not all workers have access to these benefits, which are not designed to provide workers with extended time off. Research shows that the financial cost of family and medical leave is a primary barrier workers face as they make leave choices.

Our new fact sheet from diversitydatakids.org explores how paid family and medical leave policy could reduce cost barriers to leave for U.S. working families. This research answers several important questions related to the affordability of family and medical leave.

How much does unpaid family and medical leave cost families in the event they need it?

Taking unpaid family and medical leave, in the event that it is needed, results in a large financial burden for families. Six weeks of unpaid family and medical leave results in a 27 percent loss of family income over a three-month period (i.e. quarterly income) for U.S. full-year workers. The financial shock of family and medical leave is even greater if a worker needs to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave: on average he/she loses well over half of quarterly family income.

Are there alternatives to unpaid family and medical leave that could be implemented in the U.S.?

As an alternative to national unpaid family and medical leave that would bring the U.S. in line with other industrialized nations, the U.S. could offer paid leave through a social insurance policy approach (similar to the approach taken by Social Security programs). Employers and workers would jointly finance an insurance fund which workers would then draw from if they experienced a qualifying health condition and needed to take family and medical leave. While on leave, workers would receive partial wage replacement (maximums would be set for both the benefit amount and the number of weeks of leave). While social insurance does impose a cost on employers in addition to employees, studies of existing state paid family and medical leave insurance programs have found minimal perceived negative impact on businesses.

As proposed in pending federal legislation, a paid family and medical leave social insurance approach that based eligibility on the parameters set by Social Security Disability Insurance would increase eligibility rates for paid leave in the U.S. to 89 percent of the working-age population.

How would paid family and medical leave help families?

Currently four states and the District of Columbia have paid leave insurance laws. If we apply the New Jersey family and medical leave policy to U.S. workers (66 percent wage replacement up to a maximum of $633 per week) income losses would be reduced by half. Rather than lose 27 percent of income for six weeks of unpaid family and medical leave during a three month period, families would lose just 12 percent. Loss of income for 12 weeks of family and medical leave would be reduced from 55 percent of quarterly family income to 23 percent of family income. For middle-income workers the benefits of paid family and medical leave are even greater: it would reduce affordability constraints by almost two-thirds.

Public Policy Options

Recent public opinion surveys indicate broad public support for a social insurance paid leave policy in the U.S.: over three quarters of voters support a federal law establishing a fund that would offer all workers 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. Paid family and medical leave is a popularly supported program and there is pending legislation in the U.S. Senate that would establish a family and medical leave insurance program to provide for families in times of health crises.

People need support to maintain employment during health crises or when they become parents; it’s about time the U.S. provides it.

Maura Baldiga is a Research Associate and Pamela Joshi is Associate Director and Senior Scientist at the Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. Their research focuses on family economic security and access to work and family policies.  

A briefing paper prepared for the Council on Contemporary Families Online Symposium on Gender and Millennials, originally released March 31, 2017.

Overview. In their briefing paper, “Trending toward Traditionalism?” Pepin and Cotter report on a remarkable reversal of the attitudes held by U.S. high school seniors about gender in families: While subsequent cohorts exhibited increasingly egalitarian attitudes until the mid-1990s, they moved back towards more conservative opinions afterwards. Fate-Dixon found similar trends among 18-to-25 year olds.

Despite these findings, I think that the big structural trends are still pushing towards more gender equality in the U.S. as well as elsewhere in the West. Generations coming of age in the late 20th or early 21stcentury still grew up in a world that was largely dominated by men, certainly in politics and the economy. However, this is changing among the generations being born in the early 21st century. While couples these days are most likely to have the same level of education, there is a new pattern among the roughly 40 percent who don’t match. According to a U.S. 2012 study, a woman’s educational achievement is now slightly more likely exceed her husband’s than vice versa, a trend that seems to be accelerating in many countries. This means that new generations of women are sometimes better educated than their husbands. If that is the case, they are also more often the main breadwinners of their families than in comparable couples where the wives are less or equally educated. While attitudes about gender may stall or even exhibit some conservative backlash, structural forces continue to push towards more gender equality.

U.S. versus Europe. Full-fledged comparison of the American findings by Pepin and Cotter with European attitudes is not possible because the equivalent data for Europe are lacking. Yet, as far as the evidence goes, we see no signs that attitudes about gender are turning less rather than more conservative among Europeans, whatever their age. Figures 1 and 2 below plot the proportion of respondents in the European Social Survey agreeing with each of the following two statements: “Men should have more right to a job than women when jobs are scarce”; and “Women should be prepared to cut down on paid work for sake of family.” We give separate graphs for male and female respondents, and we plot the proportions of people agreeing at different ages, ranging from 15 to 75 year olds, and in two different years (2004 and 2010).

The most striking feature of both figures is that the lines go up dramatically from left to right, implying that younger men as well as women tend to agree much less with conservative statements about gender. Second, in the more recent round of the European Social Survey, in 2010, the responses tended to be less conservative and more gender egalitarian than six years earlier, in 2004 – as indicated by the fact that the dashed line is almost always below the solid line; otherwise, the lines just touch, indicating stability over time. While 15 to 20 year-old men tend to agree more often with the conservative statement than 20 to 25 year-old men, the most recent cohort of men below age 20 has taken a more, not less, gender egalitarian stance.

Figure 1. Percentage of Europeans agreeing with the statement “Men should have more right to a job than women when jobs are scarce”; responses in the European Social Survey in 2004 (solid lines) and 2010 (dashed lines), men (left) and women (right) aged 15 to 75

Figure 2. Percentage of Europeans agreeing with the statement “Women should be prepared to cut down on paid work for sake of family”; responses in the European Social Survey in 2004 (solid lines) and 2010 (dashed lines), men (left) and women (right) aged 15 to 75

As far as the evidence goes, the European trends in attitudes do not seem to move in the same direction as was found among high school seniors and 18-to-25-year-olds in the U.S. Despite the turn towards more conservative gender attitudes found by Pepin and Cotter and Fate-Dixon in the latter group, there are good reasons to expect that actual practices and behavior will continue to move towards more gender equality in the U.S. as well as in Europe.

Europe doesn’t have the reversal—but what does it mean? In earlier generations, if there was a difference in educational attainment level between mom and dad, it was typically dad who had the higher degree. This was the case in the United States until about 2012. In recent generations of high school graduates who were raised in double-earner families, the father usually had the higher degree in education, giving him the higher income potential, and in fact earning most of the family income. While the mother also typically went out to work for pay and contributed to the family income, her role as economic provider was typically secondary, supportive of his status as the main earner.

Recent studies showed that this is changing, not only in the West but globally. As populations across the globe become more educated, women tend to accumulate more education than men, leading to a reversal of the gender gap in education to the advantage of women.[1] This holds also on the couple level: In countries with a reversed gender gap in education, it is more common that the wife has more education than the husband, rather than the other way around.

When women are better educated than men, they may also have higher earnings potential. Yet, the gender gap in earnings still remains to men’s advantage. Among other things, this is related to the fact that women choose less lucrative study subjects and occupations and that women typically face a motherhood penalty on earnings while men rather receive a fatherhood bonus. As explained by Pepin and Cotter, the cultural orientation of gender essentialism may be the explanation, i.e. the idea that men and women hold innately and fundamentally different in interests and skills.

Yet a recent study indicates that the gender gap reversal in education has the potential to undermine the motherhood penalty. When a wife has a higher degree than her husband, not only are the chances clearly higher that she can become the main earner of the family but it also offsets the motherhood penalty, especially in countries that make it easier for women to combine careers and parenthood.[2] In Europe, when both partners have a college degree, the share of couples where she earns more than he does is around one in three among childless couples, while it is only around one in five among couples with school-aged children. However, when a wife has a college degree but her husband doesn’t, the share of coupled parents where the wife earns more than her husband is just as high as among childless college-educated couples, i.e. around one in three. This suggests that earnings potential and work experience may start to outweigh any cultural preferences of women to cut back at work after having children.

Furthermore, a female advantage in education or earnings (or both) is no longer associated with lower marital stability. This was the case in the past, but this is changing. One study found that the wife’s employment was still associated with a higher risk of divorce in the U.S., but not in European countries nor in Australia. In fact, in Finland, Norway, and Sweden, wives’ employment even predicted a lower divorce risk compared to couples where the wife stayed home.[3] More detailed study of time trends in the U.S. recently showed that while couples where she was more educated than he or where she earned more than he were more at risk of divorce in the past, but not anymore today.[4]

Why have attitudes among American youths shown a more conservative trend in recent years? An obvious explanation could be a romantic kind of backlash. These are the first kids who grew up with two working parents, if not with a single mother, with all the stressful situations this entails, particularly in a society whose institutions and companies are not quite adjusted to the new gender roles yet. Youngsters may romanticize the male breadwinner, female homemaker model, which they may still see in the movies and on television. Their mothers were typically doing extra housework shifts after their work commitments, which may not look like an attractive future for younger generations, especially when despite two working parents the income of the middle classes stopped growing[5] and many families faced difficulties keeping up with the increasing demands of consumer culture.

Even so, it remains to be seen whether the stall or even backlash observed in attitudes in the U.S. will continue. As I noted above, the recent shift in relevant attitudes observed in Europe are still moving in the direction of support for more gender equality. If I had to put my money on it, as the current American high school seniors and under-25 youths grow older, they will experience that their own families will be better off if they can pool and share resources rather than having the wife specializing in unpaid household work and the other in paid market work. As a result, I would expect that the attitudes will adjust to the reality, which is moving in the direction of more gender equality.

Jan Van Bavel is a Professor of Sociology at University of Leuven.

Barbara Risman via UIC.

A debate about just how gender progressive Millennials are has been created by a CCF online symposium. In it, Joanna Pepin and David Cotter report that attitudes toward gender equality are not always consistent: There are different trends in attitudes toward gender equality for the public world of work and the private world of the family. They suggest that while Millennials’ attitudes toward women’s rights in the world of work remain feminist, they are less likely to support equality at home than did the last generation. They use nationally representative data from surveys of high school seniors to support their argument.

We use different data and replicate their argument about the complexity of gender attitudes. But we find no evidence that Millennials are moving backward on their commitment to gender equality. Our analysis is based on attitudinal survey questions on gender questions in the General Social Survey pooled from 1977 to 2014. We then draw on just released 2016 data from the same survey to illustrate the results about Millennials today. In the analysis using data from 1977 to 2014, we measure attitudes toward women in the public sphere with a question that asked whether men are better suited emotionally for politics than are women. We measure attitudes towards women’s role in families with three questions: Is it better if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family; whether a working mother can establish just as warm and secure a relationship with her children as a mother who does not work; and whether a preschool child is likely to suffer if his or her mother works.

We use a different method than did Pepin and Cotter. We let social groups emerge empirically from the data, without pre-determining who would show up in each group (statisticians call this latent class analysis). We label the groups based on their answers to these questions about gender equality and then describe what kinds of people hold what attitudes. We traced the kinds of people in each group over decades and can describe them by race, educational status and sex. Our analysis confirms that there are indeed distinct differences between gender attitudes toward equality in the public sphere and equality within families. But we show this is not a new split. It’s one that is decades old, and our results suggest the split emerged by the 1990s.

Three major groups were formed by how people’s answers clustered (see Table 1). There were egalitarians who approved of equality in the workplace and the home. There were traditionalists who rejected equality in both the workplace and the family. And then there were the ambivalents who approved of gender equality in the workplace but not in the family. (In our actual analyses each of these groups was furthered divided into those with strong beliefs and those with moderate beliefs and the table below is presented to show that distinction.)

Where have all the Traditionals gone? The big historical story is that there are no more traditionalists. From 1977 to about 1990, about a third of Americans were traditionalists and did not believe women and men should have the same rights and opportunities at work or at home. In that era, there were almost no ambivalents. Everyone was either traditional or egalitarian. But what changed after 1990 was that the traditionalists became ambivalents. That is, by the early 1990s those who used to reject equality totally had accepted women’s right to equality at work but still resisted equality in the family. Americans who have a carte-blanche objection to gender equality in both the workplace and the home have become almost extinct. Score one big win for the feminist revolution. But the victory is partial because those traditionals have not become egalitarians, they have become ambivalents, and this is a reminder that feminist have much work to do before everyone believes in gender equality within the family.

Table 1. Are Millennials Rejecting the Gender Revolution?

(Authors’ Analysis from General Social Survey data, 1977-2014.)

Our next step was to analyze what demographic characteristics were more likely to be associated with being egalitarians vs. ambivalent for each year in the data from 1991 to 2014. We do not include traditionals here because they are almost extinct. To do this, we conducted a multinomial logit latent class regression (the analysis is available upon request). Millennials are as likely to be egalitarians as the generation immediately before them (often called Gen X). We find no retreat from equality but also no statistically significant change toward feminist attitudes among Millennials. Rather, attitudes have leveled off. The biggest generational shifts remain between Baby Boomers and their parent’s generation.

While Americans who believe in gender equality in the workforce but not at home still exist, they are most likely to be pre-Baby-boomer men, without a college education. In the General Social Survey data we find no evidence that Millennials have ambivalence to gender equality, nor that they are more likely to endorse traditional family forms than those in the past. We illustrate this argument with a descriptive summary of the data from the year 2016 (in Figure 1).

Conclusion. The traditionalist who believes women do not belong in the public sphere is now a dinosaur. Almost no one in American society believes women do not deserve equality in the public sphere. But those traditionals did not become egalitarians, rather they held on to traditional beliefs about women’s place in the family.

This is not a new story. The big swing toward more egalitarian attitudes toward women in the family can be traced to the era of the Second Wave of feminism. Our evidence shows that while Baby Boomers were the pioneering feminist birth cohort who experienced a generation gap with their own parents, those after them have inherited egalitarian attitudes but have not pushed the envelope, at least not as represented in this national dataset. Still, there is no evidence in these data of a backward slide among Millennials. It is the oldest generation, the parents of Baby Boomers, who remain the most likely to be ambivalent about gender change. These national survey data suggest that Millennials may not be pushing boundaries on gender attitudes but they do continue the slow march trend toward egalitarianism that Baby Boomers began.

Originally posted 4/18/2017

Barbara J. Risman is Professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and President of the Board of the Council on Contemporary Families. Ray Sin is a behavioral science researcher at Morningstar Inc. and a doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago. William Scarborough is a doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

At college graduation season, when grad ceremonies involve messages to honor and appreciate the parents, we revisit Laura Hamilton on some of the trolling of those parents that can occur.

Move-in day at four-year residential colleges and universities around the U.S. marks a parenting milestone. But what happens next? Although most parents of college students do not have an embodied presence on their child’s dormitory floor, some provide so much financial, emotional, and logistical support that it seems they never left.

The media refers to these parents as “helicopters” and they are among the most reviled figures of 21st century parenting (see this recent Washington Post article for an example). They are derided as pesky interlopers in the postsecondary system, who unnecessarily intervene with university programming, test the patience of college officials, and create needy students. Because intensive parenting is a task that falls mostly on the shoulders of women, many critiques also have a mother-blaming bent.

Do involved parents burden the university? In Parenting to a Degree: How Family Matters for College Women’s Success, I followed 41 families as their children moved through a public flagship university between the years of 2004 and 2009. I conducted a year of ethnographic observation in a women’s residence hall, interviewed both mothers and fathers, and conducted five years of annual interviews with their daughters.

The university I studied, like many other public schools, lacked the deep pockets and rich resources of elite privates. Rather than evading helicopters, the school actively cultivated a partnership with involved parents. Out-of-state parents were considered a real asset, as they were typically both affluent and well-educated. In the face of steep state budget cuts and mounting accountability pressures, the institution relied on parents to fill numerous financial, advisory, and support functions. It is not unique in adopting such a strategy.

Net tuition now rivals state and local appropriations as the primary funder of public higher education. In this equation, parents become a crucial source of funds. Four-year schools also structure their classes, activities, and living options around traditional students and expect parents to do the work of maintaining them. Many parents in the middle to top stratum of the class structure readily accept these tasks. They have come to believe that a college experience is something that “good” parents offer, no matter the cost.

The sheer diversity of academic and social options on today’s college campuses means that there are many ways for students make costly mistakes. Yet, as advisor to student ratios steadily rise, tailored advice is typically not coming from public university staff. Students are expected to seek guidance from home. Affluent, well-educated parents—typically mothers—dive headlong into the roles of academic advisor, career counselor, therapist, and life coach. They have flexible careers that allow for emergency visits, a savvy understanding of higher education, the ability to interface with university staff, and money to smooth over every hurdle.

Parents even help translate college degrees into jobs. Elite companies look for markers of status that parents cultivate in their children—for example, skill in upper-class extracurricular activities, a narrative of self-actualization, and delicately honed interactional skills. Universities rely on families to embed these traits, as the degree alone is not enough to get a good job. Internship and job placement services are also outsourced to parents, who craft resumes, tap their networks for opportunities, and enable moves to urban locations.

This arrangement takes a toll on all families. Adults extend parenting responsibilities further into their own life course, undermining their own financial security and draining emotional and psychological reserves. There is also some truth to the notion that the helicoptered children are slow to adapt to adulthood; their academic success can come at the cost of self-development in other spheres.

But families of modest means stand to lose the most ground. University outsourcing to parents increases the salience of family background for academic and career success, exacerbating existing inequities. Well-resourced parents are advantaged when parental labor is built into the very form and function of the university. They can out-fund, out-strategize, and out-network the competition. In contrast, less privileged parents are reliant on what the university offers. They are often deeply disappointed.

The helicopter parent blame game distorts the real issue: Public universities are growing dependent on private family resources for their existence. As parents become more central to the operation of higher education, the social mobility mission of the mid-20th century public university gradually slips away.

Laura T. Hamilton is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Merced. Hamilton’s new book, Parenting to a Degree: How Family Matters for College and Beyond, was recently released by the University of Chicago Press. In this book, Hamilton vividly captures the parenting approaches of mothers and fathers as their daughters move through Midwest U and into the workforce.

A briefing paper prepared for the Council on Contemporary Families Online Symposium on Gender and Millennials, originally released March 31, 2017.

In this study, I use the National Exit Poll and Tisch College/CIRCLE’s nationally representative tracking poll of Millennials to explore how young men and women differed in their vote choice in 2016, how they chose their candidates, and how they seem to be responding to the outcome of the election.

When it comes to voting, youths are politically more liberal than older age groups, and young women more liberal than young men. Yet although young adults aged 18 to 29 were more likely to support Clinton in 2016 than any other age group (55 percent overall), youth support overall for Democratic candidates has declined since 2008 and 2012. As I explain below, this was largely due to shifts in the allegiances of politically moderate young men and to the increased representation, and likely rising turnout, of the strongest Trump-supporter group among youth: White men without a college degree.

Reflecting the gender difference in vote choice, Millennial men and women have different views of the new Trump Administration and what risks and opportunities it presents. Women are overall much less optimistic, and more worried about people’s rights. Yet they do not report feeling motivated to become more involved in politics. Therefore, even though Millennial women perceive biases and injustice against women connected to the rise of this new administration, they may not choose to address these issues by becoming politically involved.

On the other hand, historical analysis suggests that young people’s commitment to equality rises during Republican administrations, something that was certainly the case during the George W. Bush Administration. If this pattern applies, we may see a significant rise in youth civic and political engagement in the near future.

Youth Vote 2008-2016:  Men and Women, Once United, Now Divided. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won 55 percent of voters under age 30, a higher percentage than any other age group. Despite the decisive youth support for Mrs. Clinton, her victory among this group was much lower than that of Barack Obama. In 2008, 66 percent of all youth voted for the Democratic candidate, and a solid 60 percent did so in 2012.

The gender differences in youth support for candidates were larger than in other recent elections. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of young female voters supported Hillary Clinton, compared to slightly less than half (47 percent) of young men (see Figure 1). There was also a significant reversal in the turnout of young men and women. In 2004, 2008, and 2012, more young White women voted than did young White men. But in 2016 the opposite was true. While the turnout of young White women remained fairly stable through the last four Presidential elections, 2016 saw the greatest number of votes cast by young White men in the past 12 years — markedly higher than their female counterparts (see Figure 2).

Figure 1

Figure 2

The gender difference in support for Hillary Clinton was largest among youth who had attended college at one point but did not have a degree (see Figure 3). This group includes many current college students along with those who have college experience but do not have a four-year degree.

Figure 3

The National Exit Poll also reveals gender differences in support for Hillary Clinton across racial groups. Black and Latina women were more likely to support Hillary Clinton than their male counterparts, often by a substantial margin. But young White men comprised the only youth group that gave majority support to Donald Trump (52 percent for Trump, 35 percent for Clinton). White women were far less likely to vote for Clinton than women of other racial and ethnic backgrounds, but still gave Clinton a 9-point edge over Trump (see Figure 4).

Figure 4

Rapidly declining support for the Democratic presidential candidate from young men who consider themselves political moderates contributed to the overall decline in the proportion of young voters who supported Clinton. In 2008, two-thirds of young moderates, both men and women, supported Barack Obama. But in 2016, just 41 percent of young male moderates voted for Hillary Clinton, even though support from young female moderates fell only modestly, from 65 percent in 2008 to 61 percent in 2016 (see Figure 5).

Figure 5

Shifts in the demographic composition of White youth voters also contributed to the overall decline in youth support for the democratic candidate. As noted above, for many past elections young women’s voter turnout surpassed those of young men’s, and among White youth, women without a college degree made up the largest share in 2008. Since then, the share of young White votes cast by women without college degree has declined steadily, and in 2016, the share of male voters without college degrees far surpassed that of their female counterparts (and of college-educated youth of either sex, see Figure 6). This shift is important because White men without a college degree overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump, by a staggering 31-point margin (see Figure 7).

Additional analyses, available on request, imply (though not conclusively) that among men, a majority of whom had voted for Obama in 2008 regardless of race, many had become increasingly disillusioned by 2012, and were driven toward Trump in 2016. Young men who had voted in a presidential election before 2016 were far more likely to vote for Trump than the first-time voting men, by a large margin. Vote choice among young women did not differ by previous voting experience.

Figure 6

Figure 7

Many Millennials, But Not All, Thought Gender Played a Role This Election. Compared to past cohorts of women, Millennials face relatively few structural and explicit gender barriers. But during the 2016 campaign, 33 percent of Millennial women perceived clear gender biases against Hillary Clinton in the media, while 30 percent of young men thought that the media was biased in Clinton’s favor. About one month after the election, Millennial men and women were somewhat divided on how they saw the new Trump administration and whether women have the same access to opportunities as men do today. Only one-third of Millennial women considered Donald Trump their president, compared to 44 percent of Millennial men, and also only one-third (34 percent) of Millennial women believed that men and women now had the same opportunities, while half (48 percent) of their male counter-parts thought so (see Figure 8).

Figure 8 

For Millennials, Feminism is Personal, but Not Political. Although women were more likely to think that Hillary Clinton’s gender influenced the election in some ways, data also show that Millennials, including women, tend not to connect gender and politics. Only a quarter of women (and 15 percent of men) in this age group consider themselves feminists. Furthermore, only 20 percent disagree with the statement “Feminism is about personal choice, not politics.” Indeed, just 14 percent of Millennial women said that electing the first female President of the United States was an important factor in their candidate choice (See Figure 9).

Figure 9

Will Millennial Men and Women Stay Equally Involved in Civic Life in the Future? In short, Millennial men and women are not engaged in the same way and at the same level. Millennial women, generally speaking, are more likely to volunteer and to vote, whereas Millennial men are more likely to aspire to elected office, consume political news, especially through late-night news comedy shows, and discuss political issues with their peers. Although patterns of individual civic engagement are complex and should not be oversimplified, Millennial women tend to contribute to civic life by supporting civil society (including at local and national elections), while men are more comfortable with political involvement.

But will their engagement levels and patterns stay the same after the unusual election of the 2016?  Young men and women differ in their view of the health of U.S. democracy, with men feeling more hopeful than women. However, this does not seem to lead them to report different levels of intent to engage in politics in the near future (see Figure 10). As found in the recent study from CIRCLE, Clinton voters reported being far more motivated to engage in politics, especially to resist the new Trump administration, than Trump voters. Yet the relative lack of difference between men and women in this analysis indicates that although Millennial women felt less hopeful about U.S. democracy under the Trump administration, they were not yet motivated to take political action shortly after the election. It is worth noting, however, that this polling occurred before the inauguration and the Women’s marches that occurred across the country the following day. According to several national polls taken in the second half of February, Trump’s disapproval ratings have increased since then. It is possible that Millennial women may become increasingly willing to engage in politics.

Figure 10

There is, moreover, some indication that young people, regardless of gender, may become more engaged throughout the current administration. My colleague Peter Levine analyzed the American National Election Survey data from 1984 to the present and found that overall, people’s concerns about equality rises during Republican administration and subsides during Democratic administrations (see Figure 11). This was most pronounced in the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. It is then reasonable to expect that more young people will become politically engaged in the coming years.

Figure 11

© Peter Levine, 2017: http://peterlevine.ws/?p=18064

Conclusion. This gender-centered view into the 2016 presidential election data highlights the complexity and diversity of the Millennial generation, which simply cannot be described as a monolith who hold the same values, believe in the same things, and — especially when it comes to voting — lean Democratic. The data tells a story of a generation once united by the rhetoric of “hope and change” in President Obama’s campaign, and solidified by the belief in equality, but now deeply divided and consequently conflicted over who to blame for their disappointment.

The Pepin and Cotter  brief may seem at odds with this paper because it points to an important decline in gender egalitarianism, which is alarming because, if true and enduring, our country could be pedaling back from decades of progress toward gender equity. On the other hand, our data suggest that the large shifts in attitudes and behaviors occurred among a specific demographic group, namely men, and most especially White men without a college degree, a conclusion supported by Fate-Dickson’s analysis of the GSS findings. As Pepin and Cotter point out, it is possible that “a significant minority of youths have reverted to an endorsement of male supremacy, at least within the family realm” but certainly not all.

That said, the data from Tisch College’s CIRCLE Millennial poll also indicates that relatively few Millennial women explicitly identify as feminists (25 percent) and even fewer men (15 percent) see themselves as such, despite the rise in the number of “stay-at-home dads” noted by Van Bavel. This may seem like a conundrum to seasoned feminists who have long argued that “the personal is political.” But, only one-fifth of Millennials regard feminism as a political rather than just a personal stance. In fact, even among women, just 14 percent named electing the first female President of the United States as an important factor in their vote choice.

Many if not most Millennials believe that men and women should  have equal access to opportunities and power in general, a trend that’s likely to increase according to their historic patterns. But, as Pepin and Cotter point out, some now believe that in their families, it is okay for men to have more power, and that personal choices about gender relationships at home have no bearing on what will happen to the egalitarian political and work opportunities they seem to support. One strategy may be to strengthen civic and community education to help young people understand how their personal choices and decisions are influenced by, and have impact on, our public policies.

Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg is the director of CIRCLE Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University.

This fact sheet was compiled for the Council on Contemporary Families by scholars at diversitydatakids.org.

Asian Americans are often seen as the most affluent racial/ethnic minority group in the United States, the “model minority.” It is true that, overall, their income, educational attainment and neighborhood environment is better than that of Hispanics and Blacks. However, what is often missed is that the Asian American experience is highly diverse. There are significant differences by national origin and across geographic areas. It is important to uncover the variation in the Asian American experience so that we can better understand and address the strengths and vulnerabilities of different subgroups.

Socioeconomic status is highly variable

  • Asians have the highest socioeconomic status of any major racial/ethnic group in the U.S., but their characteristics vary greatly according to their national origin or ancestry. As seen in Figure 1, the median household income of Asian Indians ($103,821), the highest income group, is more than twice that of Bangladeshis ($49,515), the lowest income group. [2015 median household income, from U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey]
  • Asians vary even more dramatically in terms of educational attainment. 77 percent of Taiwanese and 73 percent of Asian Indians (age 25 and over) have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to only 14 percent of Laotians and 18 percent of Cambodians [U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey]

Residential segregation among the poor

  • Asians are less residentially segregated from non-Hispanic whites than are Blacks or Latinos (less likely to live in separate neighborhoods). However, poor Asians are very segregated from poor whites, and poor Asian children experience extreme segregation­—substantially higher even than that experienced by poor Black or Hispanic children. [org analysis of 2015 American Community Survey, 5-year estimates]

Child opportunity in neighborhoods is also highly variable

Separate neighborhoods are often deeply unequal in terms of the opportunities that they offer residents. The diversitydatakids.org/Kirwan Institute Child Opportunity Index  is an aggregate measure of neighborhood opportunity for children across neighborhoods in a metropolitan area, based on 19 indicators important for children’s wellbeing. [Following 4 points based on diversitydatakids.org analysis of the Child Opportunity Index and the 2010 Census, Summary File 1]

  • Asians are more concentrated in the highest-opportunity neighborhoods of U.S. metropolitan areas than are any other major racial/ethnic group. But this does not mean that Asians are uniformly advantaged. Asian racial subgroups are extraordinarily diverse, and there is tremendous inequality among these subgroups.
  • For example, while 50 percent of Taiwanese reside in very high-opportunity neighborhoods (the best 20 percent of neighborhoods within their metro area) this is true for only 5 percent of the Hmong population (see Figure 2).
  • In addition to the Taiwanese population, Koreans, Japanese, and Indians are highly concentrated in very high-opportunity neighborhoods.
  • By contrast, Hmong, Cambodians, and Laotians are highly concentrated in very-low opportunity neighborhoods (the lowest 20 percent of neighborhoods within their metro area.) A full half of Hmong, 38 percent of Cambodians, and 34 percent of Laotians live in such low-opportunity neighborhoods, compared to only 2 percent of Taiwanese and 4 percent of Koreans.
  • Even within the same Asian and Pacific Islander subgroups, the share living in the highest opportunity neighborhoods of their metro area differs substantially across metros. For example, 66 percent of Chinese living in Pittsburgh reside in the very high-opportunity neighborhoods of that metro, but only 19 percent of Chinese living in San Francisco reside in the very high-opportunity neighborhoods of that metro.

Exposure to poverty in public schools

  • The average Asian public school student attends a school where 42 percent of students are low-income. This is well below the figures for Blacks and Latinos, where the average public school student attends a school where more than two-thirds (68 percent) of the students are low income. [Civil Rights Project, UCLA; Brown at 62: School Segregation by Race, Poverty, and State]

But again, this average advantage does not accrue to all groups of Asians. One symptom of the extreme segregation facing low-income Asians is a lack of access to support systems such as Head Start programs. The percentage of poor Asian children with access to a Head Start Center is lower than for their counterparts of different racial/ethnic backgrounds. Only 22 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander children in families with incomes below the poverty line reside in a neighborhood that includes a Head Start center, compared to 31 percent of poor Black children and 31 percent of poor Hispanic children.

The authors are part of  diversitydatakids.org at the Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy, Brandeis University. Nancy McArdle is at nmcardle@brandeis.edu

The Council on Contemporary Families Gender and Millennials Online Symposium presents research on how Millennial men and women are changing—and how they are not changing. Countering the recent trend of ignoring inconvenient facts, this symposium makes it clear that attitudes about gender equality are more complex than either supporters or opponents of feminism often admit. Here’s a quick review of the brief reports.

The Council on Contemporary Families released a Gender and Millennials Online Symposium revealing that young adults have become less supportive of gender equality at home over the past two decades—though not in Europe, where work/family policies are more generous. Yet the benefits of egalitarian marriages, for both partners, have increased during the same time frame.

In this eight-part series, there’s the old news: women and men are more likely to endorse gender equality than ever—and they live lives that express that. Then there’s the not-so-old news: progress toward gender equality has slowed since the 1990s. Some call it a stall. And there’s new news: youthful gender attitudes are more variable than we thought, and at least among younger Millennials, a continued endorsement of equality at work has been accompanied by a dip in support for equality at home. And therein lies the complex set of reports that comprise the Council on Contemporary Families Gender and Millennials Online Symposium, released March 31.

The keynote essay, “Trending Towards Traditionalism? Changes in Youths’ Gender Ideology,” by sociologists Joanna Pepin (University of Maryland) and David Cotter (Union College), reports that when it comes to work and politics, young adults are increasingly egalitarian. But when it comes to home life, the 40-year-long move toward gender equality has stopped or reversed in recent years.

The trends: Specifically, Pepin and Cotter report:

  • In 1994, 42 percent of high-school seniors felt that the best family was one where the man was the outside achiever and the woman took care of the home. In 2014 this had gone up to 58 percent.
  • In 1994, 48 percent of high school seniors said a mother who works cannot establish as warm and secure a relationship with her children as a mother who does not work. In 2014, the share disagreeing went up to about 60 percent.

While young people endorse at rates of 90 percent or higher the idea that men and women should be equal at work, Pepin and Cotter see a trend in greater traditionalism at home. They call this “egalitarian essentialism”—a concept that seems to go a long way in describing the complex trends in gender attitudes presented today. In her overview essay “CCF Gender and Millennials Online Symposium: Overview,” historian Stephanie Coontz defines egalitarian essentialism as combining “a commitment to equality of opportunity with the belief that men and women typically choose different opportunities because men are ‘inherently’ better suited to some roles and women to others.” Coontz explains, “Egalitarian essentialism assumes that as long as women are not prevented from choosing high-powered careers, or forced out of them upon parenthood, their individual choices are freely made and are probably for the best.”

Nika Fate-Dixon identifies similar trends among young people in the 18-25 age group, using data collected since 1977. In “Millennials Rethinking the Gender Revolution? Long-Range Trends in Views of Non-Traditional Roles for Women,” she found that by 1994, 84 percent disagreed with the claim that a woman’s place was in the home. In 2014, however, the percent disagreeing had dropped to three-quarters. While Pepin and Cotter found that the backtracking on gender equality occurred among both men and women high-school seniors, Fate-Dixon found a sharp and growing gender gap among people in their early 20s. As noted below, this was a clear trend through 2014, but the 2016 GSS data no longer follow this pattern. Researchers await more results and analyses.

Politics: Young people—ages 18-30—were by far the strongest supporters of Clinton over Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election. However, according to Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg’s “How Gender Mattered to Millennials in the 2016 Election and Beyond,” only 25 percent of the women Millennial voters and 15 percent of the Millennial men identified as feminists. Furthermore, Kawashima-Ginsberg, Director of Tuft University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE), Millennials’ support for Clinton in 2016 was ten percentage points lower than their vote for Obama in 2008, further evidence for a dip in enthusiasm for gender equality.

Other political research presented by political scientist Dan Cassino (Fairleigh Dickinson University) in “Some men feel the need to compensate for relative loss of income to women. How they do so varies” suggests that some men have reacted negatively to women’s economic gains. During the primaries, male voters who were reminded of women’s growing economic clout became markedly less likely to express a preference for Hillary Clinton. When Cassino studied men who had actually lost income relative to their wives, however, Republicans and Democrats reacted in different ways. Men who were Democrats became more liberal as their share of household earnings fell, while Republican men became more conservative.

Married life: In “A View From Above: How Structural Barriers to Sharing Unpaid Work at Home May Lead to “Egalitarian Essentialism” in Youth,” Dan Carlson, assistant professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah, suspects that this backsliding on gender equality is less a product of gender threat than it is due to the absence of work/family policies that make domestic equality possible. Since the 1990s, the historically higher risk of divorce for couples where the wife earns more than her husband has disappeared. And these days, in contrast to the past, couples in which husband and wife equally divide family chores and child-rearing now report higher marital and sexual satisfaction than more traditional couples. Carlson suggests that support for domestic equality continues to strengthen among children of dual-earners when they have access to family-friendly work policies, but that youth who have seen their parents overwhelmed by economic and time pressures may have gotten discouraged.

Research on European countries—where social supports for families are stronger—backs Carlson up. Using European public opinion surveys, Professor Jan Van Bavel (University of Leuven) found no dips in egalitarianism related to home life or work life in “The Reversal of the Gender Gap in Education and the Continued Push towards Gender Equality.” He writes, “In the more recent round of the European Social Survey, in 2010, the responses tended to be less conservative and more gender egalitarian than six years earlier, in 2004.”

Well, maybe “Millennials” isn’t such a great category. In “The Use and Abuse of Millennials as an Analytic Category,” sociologist Frank Furstenberg (University of Pennsylvania) warns against over-generalizations about such a diverse group as the Millennials. He argues that the 18-to-25-year-olds interviewed in 2014 are not really comparable to those interviewed in 1994: They are far less likely to be married or employed in permanent jobs than this age group 20 or 40 years earlier. In her overview essay, historian Coontz notes that CCF Board President Barbara Risman’s research supports this warning against stereotyping a generation. In Risman’s interviews with Millennials for a forthcoming book, she was struck by the contradictory expectations about gender and family life expressed even within a single conversation. Furstenberg and Van Bavel suggest that as youths enter married life, and especially if they gain access to family-friendly work policies, they may well change their views. But Pepin and Cotter warn that this is by no means inevitable.

Update: After this symposium was released last Friday, 2016 data from the General Social Survey became available. The latest numbers show a sharp rebound in young men’s disagreement with the claim that male-breadwinner families are superior. GSS two-year trends are exceptionally volatile, due to the small size of the sample, and the overall decade averages still confirm a rise in traditionalism among 18-to-25-year-olds since the 1990s. But the new data shows that this rise is no longer driven mainly by young men, as it appeared to be in the General Social Survey results from 1994 through 2014. Other evidence for a Millennial gender gap still stands, so stay tuned for more updates on this moving target.

Originally prepared for the Council on Contemporary Families Online Symposium on Gender and Millennials March 31, 2017. Previously posted at Famillies as They Really Are on April 5, 2017. 

This column was prepared for CCF by Virginia Rutter, Professor of Sociology, Framingham State University, and Megan Peterson, CCF Public Affairs and Social Media Intern, Framingham State University.