New Work

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

As the United States becomes more accepting of interracial unions, multiracial individuals are a rapidly growing segment of our population.  Social scientists frequently tout the rising number of interracial unions as a sign that racial/ethnic distinctions are diminishing.  An implicit assumption behind such a view is that interracial couples live happily ever after.

The reality, however, is much more complicated. Although attitudes toward interracial unions have become much more favorable over time, some interracial couples continue to report ostracism from friends and families.  Family opposition may increase when interracial couples transition into more serious relationships. For example, transitions into marriage and/or childbearing often intensify opposition because they portend more permanent unions and changes to the racial/ethnic composition of the family line.

Such stigma may decrease the stability of interracial unions and increase the family instability experienced by multiracial children. For example, barriers to intermarriage may partially explain why relative to same-race couples, higher shares of interracial couples cohabit. Cohabitations are known to break up at higher rates than marriages. Stigma and lack of family support may also have adverse effects on the relationship quality of interracial couples. Because opposition tends to be most pronounced for White-Black interracial unions, reflecting the historic legacy of anti-miscegenation, the risk of union dissolution may be particularly high for multiracial children of White-Black descent. In general, whether or not multiracial children are more likely than their peers to experience family instability is largely unknown because existing studies focus on the family experiences of single-race children.

Our research

Our study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, examined multiracial children’s exposure to family instability through age 12.  We analyzed data from the 2006-2019 National Survey of Family Growth to investigate whether multiracial children’s experiences of family instability differ from their single-race peers, whether multiracial children’s exposure to family instability varies by their parents’ marital status at birth, and whether multiracial children of White and Black descent experience more family instability than children of White and Hispanic descent.


Our results show that how multiracial children’s risk of family instability compares with that of their single-race peers varies by their parent’s marital status at birth. Multiracial children born in cohabitations were more likely than their single-race peers to experience family instability. By contrast, the family instability experiences of multiracial children born to married parents tended to fall between those of their single-race White and single-race minority peers.

Multiracial children’s risk of union dissolution also differs according to both parents’ race and ethnicity, but how it differs continues to depend on parents’ marital status at birth.  Contrary to expectations, multiracial children of White-Black descent born in marriages were less likely than those of White-Hispanic descent to experience family dissolution.  This pattern likely arises because White-Black couples in intermarriages are a select group with extraordinary levels of commitment who overcame the formidable barriers to White-Black intermarriage. Differences between multiracial children born in cohabitation were minimal.  The lack of a difference may reflect two opposing forces at play. Parents of White-Black children experience more stigma than parents of White-Hispanic children, increasing their risk of union dissolution. Simultaneously, the more formidable barriers to interracial marriage mean that interracial cohabitations involving White-Black cohabitations may be more “marriage-like” than White-Hispanic cohabitations, and thus more stable.


Our findings underscore the importance of recognizing the heterogeneity of the multiracial population.  Their family contexts differ vastly depending on their parents’ marital status at birth and both parents’ race/ethnicity. Moreover, that higher shares of multiracial children are born to cohabitors suggests that the rise in interracial unions may not be blurring racial/ethnic distinctions. Rather, our results suggest that systemic racism and associated unfavorable attitudes towards interracial unions may be creating a disadvantaged group: multiracial children born in cohabiting unions.  These children are significantly more likely than their peers to experience family instability, which is linked to poorer outcomes.

Kate H. Choi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Acting Director of the Centre for Research on Social Inequality at Western University in London, ON.  Rachel E. Goldberg is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology in the University of California Irvine.  Their research explores the causes and consequences of inequalities within and across families.

Reposted with permission from the Gender & Society Blog

The closure of schools and childcare centers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified pressure on U.S. parents already struggling to balance employment and family caregiving in a country that provides little social support. The move of schooling and childcare into the home – along with the still-unfolding effects on women’s employment – has raised questions about the long-term consequences for gender equality in the U.S.

Some are optimistic that these large-scale disruptions – which, for some, have included new opportunities to work from home – offer a chance to increase gender equality in the division of care and domestic work. As remote work decreases the need for “face time” at the office, classic rationales justifying an unequal division of domestic labor may also recede. Others, however, remain skeptical, noting that if the increased unpaid work falls disproportionately on mothers, the loss of childcare and on-site schooling will only exacerbate existing gender inequalities, especially given women’s greater risk of job loss in the current “shesession.” Additionally, even if remote work offers an opportunity to increase gender equality for remote workers, access to this arrangement remains a largely white-collar privilege that limits such potential gains to a privileged few.

In our study, published in Gender & Society, we ask how families experienced and responded to sudden changes in paid and unpaid work in the early months of the pandemic, focusing in particular on how these experiences varied by parents’ ability to work remotely. Analyzing nationally representative survey data from 478 partnered parents, collected in April 2020, we examine how the loss of childcare and in-person schooling affected the division of housework, childcare, and children’s remote learning as well as how pressured parents felt about the sudden responsibility for their children’s schooling.


Our results indicate that among couples with children, the consequences of these pandemic-induced shifts in schooling and childcare largely depended not just on individuals’ own work circumstances but on their partners’ as well.

In families where both parents worked from home, the response to the increased domestic workload was generally egalitarian – mothers and fathers alike reported almost identical increases in housework and childcare and in responsibility for housework and child care as well.  Mothers and fathers in households with two teleworkers also reported feeling nearly equal amounts of pressure about their children’s schooling.  Even in the scenario where both parents worked from home, however, women still bore disproportionate responsibility for unpaid work since similar increases left pre-pandemic inequality intact. Mothers were thus more than twice as likely as fathers to say they were primarily responsible for housework and childcare during the pandemic and over 1.5 times more likely to report taking on the bulk of managing their children’s home learning.

Disparities in housework, childcare, and home education were even greater when only one spouse worked remotely. When mothers worked from home alone, they were more likely than mothers in dual remote-worker couples to have increased their housework time, absorbing the additional domestic work. In contrast, when fathers alone worked from home, they reported far less involvement in domestic work than either mothers working from home alone or fathers in dual-remote working couples.

When domestic workloads increased and neither parent worked from home, mothers mostly picked up the slack – especially when it came to housework and home learning. Among couples not working remotely, mothers were twice as likely as fathers to have increased their household time and were three times as likely to report being primarily responsible for housework. These mothers were also seven times as likely as fathers to say they did the majority of children’s home learning and, consequently, were twice as likely to report feeling pressure related to their children’s remote education.

The takeaway

We cannot yet know the longer-term consequences of the rise in remote work post-pandemic. Taken together, however, these findings suggest that gender remains a powerful force in organizing domestic work despite the greater flexibility that working remotely allows. In the most optimistic scenario, where both partners worked remotely, the gender division of labor remained relatively stable with both mothers and fathers contributing more to housework and childcare in the wake of school and childcare closures. In couples where neither parent worked from home or where mothers alone did so, mothers became the stopgap who absorbed most of the additional caring and schooling of children. For reasons that need greater exploration, fathers who work from home were generally better able to protect themselves from the incursions of unpaid care work. Going forward, our findings suggest that whether remote work fosters more equality or exacerbates preexisting inequalities will depend on the varied forms it takes in families.

Link to full article: Gender, Parenting, and The Rise of Remote Work During the Pandemic: Implications for Domestic Inequality in the United States – Allison Dunatchik, Kathleen Gerson, Jennifer Glass, Jerry A. Jacobs, Haley Stritzel, 2021 (

Allison Dunatchik is a PhD student in Sociology and Demography at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research centers on gender, work and family, with a focus on how public policies affect gender and class inequalities inside and outside of the household.

Kathleen Gerson is Collegiate Professor of Arts & Science and Professor of Sociology at New York University. She is the author of “The Science and Art of Interviewing” and “The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family,” among other books. She is currently writing a book on the collision of work and caretaking in contemporary America.

Jennifer Glass is the Centennial Commission Professor of Liberal Arts in the Department of Sociology of the University of Texas–Austin, and Executive Director of the Council on Contemporary Families. Her recent research explores how work–family public policies improve family well-being, and why mothers continue to face a motherhood pay penalty as their income generating responsibility for their children grows.

Jerry A. Jacobs, Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, is the co-founder and first president of the Work and Family Researchers Network. Jacobs has written extensively about women’s careers and work-family issues. His six books include The Time Divide: Work, Family and Gender Inequality (2004) with Kathleen Gerson and the Changing Face of Medicine: Women Doctors and the Evolution of Health Care in America (2008) with Ann Boulis.

Haley Stritzel is a PhD candidate in Sociology and a graduate student trainee in the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Haley uses a range of quantitative and demographic research methods to study the family and neighborhood contexts of child and adolescent health. Her dissertation focuses on the geographic distribution and correlates of foster care entries associated with parental substance use.

When parents experience racial discrimination do their parenting behaviors differ, and does that influence their teens? A new study in the journal Family Relations takes on the question of the effects of stresses related to race on youth – but focuses the question on stressors experienced by parents. The parenting of African American teens has been a focus of prior research on teen’s academic achievement and success, and positive as well as risk behavior. Some of the existing research has included a focus on parents’ experiences of discrimination, and how that shapes their parenting.

What prior studies haven’t done is consider how parents may anticipate discrimination or experience it vicariously, and whether that plays a role in parenting. This new study shows that personally experiencing discrimination is important, yet that racial discrimination doesn’t need to be individually experienced to influence parenting and teens’ wellbeing. In particular, when mothers witnessed or heard others’ stories of racial discrimination (which the authors call vicarious discrimination), there was an impact on teens.

Specifically, the study found that mothers who anticipated racial discrimination were more involved and vigilant with their teens, which was associated with better adjustment for their kids. For mothers who experienced vicarious discrimination, their teens had more problem behaviors – yet at the same time they were also more involved and vigilant as parents, which was related to lower internalizing problems and higher academic persistence among their teens.

These findings underscore that racial discrimination does not need to be personally or directly experienced in order to influence families. Just hearing about the discrimination of others can affect both parents as well as their kids. This is an important topic for future research, but also suggests that for teachers or counselors that work with families, racial stress doesn’t have to be a specific event to have consequences. A focus on a family’s exposure to racial stress – and their strategies to cope with it – could help parents and adolescents better manage these stressors. With so much attention to examples of racial discrimination circulating in the media, this new study shows that supporting African American parents is more important than ever.

Acknowledgments: This research was supported by an infrastructure grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD, P2C HD042849) awarded to the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

Kathleen Holloway is a Doctoral Candidate in Human Development and Family Sciences at University of Texas at Austin. Fatima Varner is an Assistant Professor in Human Development and Family Sciences at University of Texas at Austin. Stephen T. Russell is Priscilla Pond Flawn Regents Professor in Child Development and Director of the School of Human Ecology at the University of Texas at Austin.

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It’s no secret that there are a lot of people struggling economically in the U.S. Over the past year, the pandemic has made the need for help even more evident—for all the people now out of work and without savings to fall back on. It makes sense that people would turn to people in their lives for help—yet many won’t, even as they suffer.

After decades of erosion in government assistance for people who are struggling, the events of the last year make the need for a renewed, strengthened public safety net even more evident. Current proposals to expand rental and food assistance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, unemployment benefits, and other aid would all make an enormous difference for people who are suffering.

My book Surviving Poverty: Creating Sustainable Ties among the Poor describes a private safety net of social ties—people we know who we can rely on—that catches some people in the absence of adequate public assistance. This is simultaneously sad, even heart wrenching, because people can be in dire circumstances, lacking the fundamentals of food and shelter, and beautiful and joyous as others reach out a hand to help and let those struggling know they’re not alone. But a lot of people do not have a private safety net—and even those who do still often struggle to meet basic needs, a problem compounded by reluctance to ask for help.

In our research published last year using data from the Time, Love, and Cash in Couples with Children Study[1] (TLC3, connected to the Fragile Families & Child Wellbeing Study), Laryssa Mykyta and I found that some people will resist help from others, even when they’re really struggling, and especially if they have to ask.

Some families do not need to be asked. In an interview, Wendy[2] said she never asks her family for help. “I never pay them back, they never say anything. They’re always right there to help. We try to pay them back; they never accept it,” she said.

Other participants also reported getting help from family members and feeling really good about it, but a common theme was that the help was freely given. None of the participants who reported feeling so positive about the help they received from family members had to ask for help. Asking for help is far different from receiving help. In fact, having to ask is a barrier to support. As Rosa said, “it has to be that I really have nowhere else to get it, and it’s my only choice. It’s hard to ask.”

Some study participants were reluctant to take help even if they didn’t have to ask. Robert said, “I hate taking money. From anybody. I’m really like, ‘No!’ I mean … I’d rather be hungry.” These participants reported a sense of pride and a desire to be independent that would have been threatened if they received help, much less asked for it. Robert’s statement that he would rather be hungry than ask for help is a vivid example of how deep the reluctance to ask for help can be for some people.

An individualistic perspective, so common in U.S. society, is one reason study participants seemed to shrink from asking for help even when they were fairly confident it was available. Individualism is a big part of how Americans define responsible adulthood. We all want to believe we can survive and succeed independently. Hinting at the stigma that accompanies getting assistance from others, some participants said their pride would not allow them to reach out for aid, even from the closest family members. And many worried they would not be able to reciprocate, so some who felt an obligation to repay any aid they might receive were also reluctant to get assistance from others. But the biggest obstacle appeared to be the requesting of help. Participants positively experienced help that was freely offered or given, but generally felt negative about the prospect of asking for help.

As we continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic, it’s essential to remember that research on stigma and social support shows that people aren’t likely to ask for help even if they need it. That’s why it’s so valuable when others simply offer it, without them having to ask. But those who are willing and able to help others should tread lightly, being mindful of the shame many feel about getting help.

Not everyone can provide financial help to struggling family and friends, particularly if they are facing their own economic burdens. But emotional support matters too, and we could all use some of that—all the time, but maybe especially now. While physical distancing is crucial as we battle COVID-19, the term social distancing is an unfortunate misnomer that stuck. Making sure people know they’re not alone in their struggles is incredibly valuable. Because in this time of immeasurable crisis, the last thing we need is social isolation. Truly, we all need our connections to others more than ever.


[1] TLC3 consists of four waves of interviews with 150 parents in 75 couples (some married, some not married) in three cities, first interviewed shortly after the birth of a child. Both mothers and fathers participated in in-depth interviews individually and as a couple in each of the four waves from 2000-2005.

[2] All names used are pseudonyms.

Joan Maya Mazelis is the author of Surviving Poverty: Creating Sustainable Ties among the Poor (NYU Press 2017). She is an associate professor of sociology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice at Rutgers University–Camden, an affiliated scholar at Rutgers–Camden’s Center for Urban Research and Education, a Faculty Affiliate at the University of Wisconsin’s Institute for Research on Poverty, and co-leader of the New Jersey/Philadelphia chapter of the Scholars Strategy Network, an organization of scholars that connect their research to legislatures, civic organizations, and the media. Follow her @JoanieMazelis.



Image by Mahesh Patel from Pixabay

Many of us likely remember how panic purchasing during the early days of the pandemic led to empty shelves in toilet paper and hand sanitizer aisles in stores across the country. Less surprising to me was the run on baby care items, including formula, wipes, and especially diapers. What many parents took for granted—abundant diaper supplies in a range of types, sizes, and brands—was no longer a given.

The one in three parents who struggled to access diapers pre-pandemic already understood this dilemma all too well. Diaper need, not being able to afford enough diapers without foregoing other essentials, has increased exponentially since March 2020. Due to pandemic-related job loss, financial hardship, and disconnection from others parents could previously rely on to help fill their diaper gaps, diaper banks have reported three- to six-fold increases in diaper requests.

Despite the tireless efforts of a growing network of diaper banks and pantries across the United States that distribute free or low-cost diapers to families in need, they can meet only a small fraction of our country’s diaper need. Although diapers are a basic need of early childhood, existing public programs, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), do not cover diapers. Welfare cash aid support is rarely enough to cover families’ other essentials, much less the $75 average monthly expense to diaper one child using disposables. Cloth diapering is infeasible among most low-income families due to prohibitively expensive start-up costs, limited access to in-home washers and dryers, and price-per-load for using public laundry facilities. For many families, lack of access to disposable diapers can perpetuate a cycle of financial hardship, whereby daycare center requirements for disposables lead to work and school absences when parents cannot afford diapers.

What, then, are parents to do when they face diaper despair? My research based on interviews with dozens of mothers who experienced diaper need revealed a variety of innovative, labor-intensive strategies caregivers pursue to provide enough diapers for their children in the context of poverty and limited public support for basic essentials. The women I interviewed did three types of what I call diaper work, the physical, emotional, and cognitive labor involved in managing diaper need and related anxiety and stigma. Mothers carefully tracked limited diaper supplies, asked others they knew for diapers or diaper money, and went without their own basic needs to afford diapers.

Mothers could tell me exactly how many diapers they had and predict within hours when they would use their last diaper. Maria, a 30-year-old, Latina mother of four, kept a chart to monitor her infant son’s liquid intake by the ounce, log every diaper change, and track a daily diaper quota based on whether her son had diarrhea or diaper rash. In describing her track-and-budget diaper work technique, Maria told me: “Diapers are lasting longer because I know when my son pees, how many times, how much he pees each time, and how many times fill up a diaper. . . . Diapers [are] the number one concern for me right now because I don’t want to struggle more, so I have to think about stuff in this way, and I can’t go over my daily limit. It’s hard living paycheck to paycheck, living diaper to diaper.”

“[L]iving diaper to diaper” often meant participating in an informal diaper economy that emerged through mothers’ efforts to manage their diaper need. Their strategies ranged from common money-saving tactics like couponing and asking for free diaper samples, to more extreme approaches such as theft, trading food stamps for diapers, and even selling their blood plasma. Mothers sold household items, cleaned others’ homes and cars, babysat others’ children, and collected recyclables all to earn diaper money. They bartered for, borrowed, and exchanged diapers and figured out who in their social networks could be relied upon to help with diapers or diaper money. Diapers were a unique form of currency for which mothers were willing to do almost anything if it meant their babies were clean, dry, and happy. As Natasha, a 35-year-old, Black mother of four explained to me: “My neighbors help with diapers because they know I’m trustworthy. If you don’t have a job, then you won’t be able to get Pampers, and you need someone to love you, help you get them.” For mothers like Natasha, diapers had a unique practical and symbolic importance that conveyed comfort, dignity, and love.

Mothers’ diaper work also involved deciding what their households, and especially they, could go without to afford diapers. Well aware of racist, classist, and sexist stereotypes about “welfare queens,” some emphasized foregoing what others might think were vanity goods or vices, such as hair and nail grooming, cigarettes, and alcohol. The most common stories, however, were of mothers regularly sacrificing or severely limiting their own basic needs, including food, medicine, clothing, and period supplies. Many had even used the latter, along with paper towels, pillow cases, and toilet paper, to create makeshift diapers when they had no other options.

One mother I met, Aisha, 20 years old and Black, showed me the growing hole in her thinning flip flops. As her daughter’s first birthday approached, she was still wearing the same shoes purchased for a few dollars during her second trimester of pregnancy. Subsisting on a diet of mostly tortillas and cereal, Aisha managed her diaper dilemma as many mothers did, by making household purchasing choices based on a per-diaper exchange rate. Just as mothers could tell me exactly how many diapers they had, they could also quickly tell me how many diapers in their child’s size could be bought for the price of a new pair of shoes they needed but went without.

Aisha was one of the mothers whose fears of entanglement with the child welfare system influenced her diapering choices. Beyond lacking ready access to a washer and dryer, the main reason Aisha could not use cloth diapers was because: “[T]hey might see it as a kid in rags. . . . If you go in front of a judge and be like, ‘Well, I didn’t have diapers or diaper money, so I used cloth,’ and your kid pees and soaks right through it, . . . they’ll say you’re not taking care of your kid.” The diaper work of mothers of color like Maria, Natasha, and Aisha went beyond the physical labor of stretching limited diaper supplies and the cognitive labor of tracking every diaper and expense. It also involved coping with the constant stress and anxiety associated with each diaper change and the stigma directed at mothers of color parenting in poverty.

What do we learn from studying mothers’ experiences of diaper need and the diaper work they do to manage it? It reveals how intersecting race, class, and gender inequalities intensify certain aspects of parenting and why we need to revise existing theories of parental labor to account for that. The theory of “intensive mothering” developed by sociologist Sharon Hays highlighted societal expectations for mothers’ parenting to be child-centered, expert-guided, emotionally absorbing, labor-intensive, and financially expensive. As a theory used mostly to understand the experiences of middle-class, white mothers, intensity in parenting has primarily come to mean the work relatively privileged women do and the sacrifices they make to promote their children’s educational success and high-class status.

Focusing on diaper work reveals how marginalized mothers engage in what I call inventive mothering, which goes beyond being self-sacrificial, time-consuming, and child-centered to include strategies that are necessarily resource-stretching, dignity-protecting, and stigma-deflecting. Poor mothers are often regarded with pity and contempt, rather than admiration and respect, as they struggle to meet their children’s basic needs. Yet a close look at their perspectives and experiences of managing diaper need reveals highly innovative and laborious strategies that are just as deliberate, complex, and attuned to inequalities and providing children opportunities. These opportunities include clean, dry diapers, something every child requires and deserves, but not every family can easily afford.

Lifting the veil on mothers’ diaper work is an imperative to reevaluate our frayed social safety net and consider how deliberate policy choices have consequences like diaper need. As controversy stirs over President Biden’s proposal for a $15 hourly minimum wage, we should keep in mind that a single mother working full-time for the current $7.25 minimum wage must spend at least six percent of her annual gross income just to diaper one child. Most states still tax diapers, and only California offers diaper vouchers as part of its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare cash aid program. Changes to TANF, the only form of direct public aid families can use to purchase diapers, have also exacerbated diaper need. Due to time limits and eligibility restrictions, most families in poverty do not receive TANF, and states now spend only about 20 cents for every dollar of TANF funding on basic assistance that can be used to buy diapers.

State spending on cash assistance for families’ basic needs is lowest in states with higher proportions of Black children, which exacerbates racialized poverty and its myriad effects, including diaper need. We must address this need as part of our nation’s ongoing efforts to reckon with deeply entrenched structural racism. Mothers of color are more likely to experience diaper need and, according to the women I interviewed, more likely to be judged when they struggle with and seek help for it. Within the folds of a diaper may not seem a likely place to look for racial and economic justice. Yet, given diaper need’s close connection to adverse social, economic, and health outcomes for both children and parents—including intensive diaper work—it is a need we have a moral and political responsibility to address.

Jennifer Randles is Chair and Associate Professor of Sociology at California State University, Fresno. Follow her on Twitter at @jrandles3 and reach her at

Even before the pandemic, telecommuting had mixed results on gender equity. And mothers telecommuting during the pandemic report more stress and depression than mothers working outside the home. 

As of April/May 2020, 55 percent of currently employed parents were working from home, and many experts predict that telecommuting will become more widespread even if schools do reopen next month. Is telecommuting the new normal? And if so, what does that mean for women’s well-being at home and at work?

A unique new study, Before and During COVID-19: Telecommuting, Work-Family Conflict, and Gender Equality, released by the Council on Contemporary Families, compares parents who were telecommuting before the pandemic and after. The good news? Telecommuting fathers do a lot more childcare than other fathers – enough more to actually even out their time with moms. The bad news? They don’t increase their daily housework at all, while telecommuting women increase theirs by almost 50 minutes. The really bad news? Telecommuting during the pandemic increases mothers’ depression and anxiety significantly more than working from a separate location. One conclusion the authors draw is that women benefit from the boundaries created by work away from home.

Investigators Thomas Lyttelton (Yale Sociology, Emma Zang (Yale Sociology), and Kelly Musick (Cornell Policy Analysis and Management) examined time use data from parents who were telecommuting from before COVID-10 and after. Using data from the 2003-2018 American Time Use Survey (ATUS, = 19,179) and the April and May 2020 COVID Impact Survey (N = 784), they found two distinct patterns of adjustment telecommuting, pre COVID-19:

Telecommuting dads closed the gender gap on childcare. Pre COVID-19, dads spent 67 more minutes caring for children on the days they worked exclusively from home. This was 47 minutes larger than the moms’ increases on work-from-home days.

For housework, the gender gap got worse. Pre COVID-19, when mothers worked from home, they increased their housework by 49 minutes, while fathers did no more housework on work-from-home days than on days they worked away from home.

Work-family spillover hits telecommuting moms hard. Aside from actual child care, telecommuting fathers, pre-COVID-19, reported that children were present while they were working for 21 minutes per day, on average, on days they worked from home. But mothers reported children present when they were working for 54 minutes per day, a gender gap of 27 minutes.

And in the pandemic, telecommuting moms report especially elevated stress. Telecommuting moms are more depressed and stressed than moms who work outside the home — and more depressed and stressed than dads working in either location. Telecommuting dads are actually less anxious when working from home than when at a separate workplace; the opposite is true for moms.

The authors note: “The closure of schools and childcare facilities greatly increases childcare burdens on parents, with telecommuters now expected to educate their children alongside doing their day jobs, a job that has so far fallen most heavily on women…. Mothers telecommuting in April – May 2020 reported feeling anxious, depressed, and lonely at higher rates than telecommuting fathers. The same was not true for mothers in the workplace, where we found no gender differences in stress and depression.”

What are those rates of stress now? In the pandemic, 20 percent of mothers working from home report feeling depressed, while 11 percent of fathers working from home do. For anxiety, six percent of fathers working from home report it, while three times as many mothers — 18 percent — working from home report it. (See Figure 2 in the brief for additional details.)

Where does this leave us?
“Telecommuting seems to work better for gender equity when men do it rather than when women do it. As a historian, my take is that men need to be reintegrated into the household just as women have been reintegrated into the work world. Telecommuting seems to help dads pay attention to childcare requirements they can ignore when at work,” notes Stephanie Coontz, CCF Director of Research.

“By contrast, most telecommuting women find it hard to ignore the internalized pressure to take care of every pile of dirty laundry, sweep up every pile of dirt, and jump to attention every time a child wanders into the room. This is a form of work-family conflict people often ignore when they tout the advantages of working from home, and as this report shows, it’s a source of gender inequality at home and at work,” Coontz concludes.

Brief report:
Press release:

Virginia Rutter is co-editor of Families as They Really Are. Follow her at @VirginiaRutter.

What do Papua New Guinea, Suriname, and the United States have in common? None of them have a federal paid parental leave policy. The US is clearly out of step with the rest of the world when it comes to this issue. In Fixing Parental Leave: The Six Month Solution (2020, NYU Press), I look to the UK and Sweden for lessons about what might work and what might not work in the US.

I started with Sweden because that seemed like the obvious starting place. Sweden was the first country to introduce parental leave back in 1974. And gender equality, or jämställdhet, is a huge part of the cultural fabric in Sweden. But I was also worried that the US wouldn’t go from 0 to 480 days of paid parental leave. So I turned to the UK, our closest ally and fellow liberal market economy. I was also hopeful that the UK could offer some ideas after introducing shared parental leave in 2015. Unfortunately, their policy hasn’t panned out, with very low rates of take-up among British fathers. All the same, I learned a lot from closely examining the policies in Sweden and the UK, and I think these lessons pointed me toward the six month solution.

My book discusses 6 main points:

  1. The US is way behind the rest of the world

The US is the only industrialized country with no paid parental leave at the national level. We are literally in a category by ourselves. There are a handful of states that offer paid family leave, and these may offer insights into how to pay for a federal policy. There are also an increasing number of (mainly large) companies that offer parental leave, but many of these policies are gendered; I created a classification of policies – gender equal, gender modified, gender unequal, gender neutral gendering.

2. Parental leave is good

There are so many benefits of parental leave for mothers, fathers, children, and business. And it has the potential to promote gender equality in the home and workplace, if shared more equally.

3. Too much parental leave is not good

There is a catch. When leave is too long or taken mainly by mothers, it may actually discourage gender equality. It gets more difficult to return to work and mothers often face wage and career penalties. Another downside of too much leave is postpartum depression. Based on a number of studies, it looks like 6 months of leave is the “sweet spot.”

4. Fathers as partners, not helpers

It’s imperative that fathers are equal partners and not simply helpers. When fathers are given very short leave, they often use their limited time at home to support their partner who, by default, become the primary caregiver.

5. The UK is not a good model

When I first went to the UK, I thought surely any policy is better than no policy. Yet, the UK has a track record of a highly gendered model of parental leave with 52 weeks of maternity leave (39 weeks paid) and 2 weeks of paternity leave. Under this system, mothers are assumed to, and generally do, take at least nine months of leave, often returning to work part-time. It’s not surprising then that men don’t do much at home and women struggle to advance in the workplace. Shared Parental Leave, introduced in 2015, hasn’t been effective, mainly because it’s still attached to maternity leave (mothers have to give it up for fathers to take it) and is low paid.

6. The Swedish model is great – but not perfect

Sweden could be the closest to perfect (though Finland’s new policy is dreamy). With 240 days of leave for each parent, it’s clearly a generous policy. In an effort to get fathers to take more leave, Sweden has what’s known as pappamånader, or “daddy quota” of 90 days, meaning that it can only be used by fathers (though the actual policy uses gender-neutral language to apply to any two parents). It’s not really a question of whether Swedish fathers will take parental leave but how much leave, going so far as to say only “oddballs” don’t take leave. But it’s still not equal.

All this suggests the US needs to get its act in shape.

The good news is that the US has a clean slate (I’m a glass half full kind of person). So when we create a paid parental leave policy – and we should do this sooner rather than later – we can do our best to make sure it not only helps workers balance having a new kid with their job but also promotes gender equality at home and work.

Gayle Kaufman is Nancy and Erwin Maddrey Professor of Sociology and Gender & Sexuality Studies at Davidson College. Find out more at and follow her on twitter @gakaufman22.

Raising the next generation has always been a group project that involves not just parents but also grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, and the larger community.  But today’s working parents find themselves increasingly isolated from the support systems they need. And although working fathers and mothers too often feel overwhelmed, isolated, and somehow to blame for the difficulties they encounter in trying to manage it all, this is a large-scale problem for all of us, whether or not we have children of our own. Society depends, of course, on the next generation and it is incumbent on all of us to ensure that all American children have what they need so that they can grow up to be strong and healthy stewards of our planet and our institutions. Raising children is not merely a vanity project – it is our project.

But what are we, as a society, doing to help young parents to rear the next generation? Far, far too little.  While we struggle to produce necessary structural changes in social policy to provide real support for working families, those in the trenches need help now.  Parents in today’s fast-paced, disorienting world can easily lose track of who they are and what really matters most. But it doesn’t have to be this way.   Working parents can learn how to harness the powerful science of leadership in order to thrive in all aspects of life.

In our new book released today, Parents Who Lead, we draw on the principles of Total Leadership – a bestseller and popular leadership development program used in organizations worldwide – and on our experience as researchers, educators, consultants, coaches, and parents, to bring the science of leadership to the art of parenting. We offer a robust, proven method that helps working parents gain a greater sense of purpose and control. The book includes tools illustrated with compelling examples from the lives of real working parents that show you, as a working parent, how to:

  • Design a future based on your core values
  • Engage with your children in fresh, meaningful ways to build trust and understanding
  • Cultivate a community of caregiving and support, in all parts of your life
  • Experiment in the laboratory of life to find new ways to live and work that align better with core values, improve performance and health, and teach children how to lead.

What many participants find particularly powerful is identifying their values, first, individually, and then, together as partners in parenting, and their vision of the future.  We ask them to imagine it’s 15 years from now and to describe an ideal day – morning, noon, and night – including what they’re doing, with whom, and most importantly, why they’re doing what they’re doing.   There are always differences, of course, and dialogue about them leads to new discoveries and forms the basis for a clearer grasp of the common ground they’re walking.   Decisions about how to invest attention – in their careers, in their family, in their community, and in themselves – about issues large and small, become easier to make because they are assessed in light of whether or not any given choice is aligned with their collective vision.

Parents Who Lead is a practical, evidence-based guide to forge a better future, foster meaningful and mutually rewarding relationships, and design sustainable solutions for creating a richer life for yourself, your children, and our world.

Stewart D. Friedman is an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School, where he has been since 1984. He founded Wharton’s Leadership Program and its Work/Life Integration Project. Bestselling author, award-winning teacher, former head of Ford’s leadership development center, consultant, policy advocate, radio show host, and in-demand speaker, Friedman is widely recognized for his impact in the fields of leadership, work/life integration, and talent.

Alyssa F. Westring is Associate Professor of Management at Driehaus College of Management at the Driehaus College of Business, DePaul University.  In addition, she is Director of Research at Total Leadership.  An award-winning educator, Westring shares her expertise on work/life integration and women’s careers in leading academic and popular outlets, and is a frequent speaker at Fortune 500 companies. 


We have seen enormous changes in how people construct relationships in 21st century America. Yet, at the same time, contemporary understandings of romance, desire, and intimacy remain firmly rooted in assumptions of gender difference. In my new book published today, The Mating Game: How Gender Still Shapes How We Date, I explore why, even as we see ever more focus by young adults on building egalitarian relationships, most people want dating and courtship to proceed in gender stereotypical ways.

I interviewed 105 college-educated young adults in the San Francisco Bay Area about their dating lives and romantic relationships and found the following:

  • Heterosexual men and women express a desire for egalitarian relationships, where both partners are educated, have a career, and share the labor at home. But they still continue to crave old-fashioned dating rituals—the man asks for the date, plans the date, and pays for the date. The man asks for commitment and proposes marriage.
  • Although these rituals are viewed as romantic, chivalrous, and fun – and of little long-term consequence – they actually lay the foundation for relationship inequality. The result is: Gender inequality gets disguised as romance.
  • LGBQ individuals tend to construct more creative relationships by questioning ingrained norms. Their flexibility makes space for more equal relationships in both the short and long term and may offer a potential model or inspiration.

How we date matters. The heterosexual women and men in this study wanted egalitarian relationships and had the educational credentials to meet each other as equals in their households. Yet they did not. Instead, they continue to believe that men and women are innately different. This belief was used to justify (and even celebrate) gendered dating practices, but then spilled over into their long-term committed relationships in less welcome ways. Heterosexual men and women believe that they have different interests, different skills, and different availability for their personal lives. These assumptions of “difference” limit their ability to question and challenge gendered preferences and arrangements. The result is that women end up with the lion’s share of the care work and household labor, in spite of everyone’s professed egalitarian goals.

On the other hand, LGBQ respondents emphasize egalitarian and flexible relationship practices right from the get-go. Payment for dates wasn’t the sole responsibility of one partner, nor was it expected to be. Nor was it the job of just one person to ask for a date. LGBQ people instead focused on communication, negotiation, flexibility, and building balanced relationships that made space for each individual’s often changing needs. This approach had a real effect on the types of relationships they built. Challenging old norms and drawing on new ones didn’t mean they never struggled with problematic relationship practices, but it did give them a different set of tools with which to work, and their relationships were more equal as a result.

The Mating Game is an accessible and engaging read for undergraduate students and general readers interested in gender, families, sexualities, and intimate relationships. The voices of the participants shine through and the empirical questions that drive the work reflect those that readers will often be considering in their own lives. Not only does the book provide readers with the tools to analyze gendered dating practices, it provides a model for how to creatively reimagine our personal lives.

Ellen Lamont is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Appalachian State University. She can be reached at: or on Twitter @EllenCLamont

Recently The Wall Street Journal published an article about a new type of online matching site. It’s not for people interested in finding their future spouse, soul mate, or next hook up. It’s for people who want a coparent, someone they can conceive and perhaps raise a child with absent any romantic entanglements or expectations for marriage. Coparenting websites like and promise that prospective parents can skip the dating and matrimony and go straight to what they really want: finding like-minded adults to share children now. Pitched primarily at affluent singles whose biological clocks are ticking after years spent investing in their careers, these sites claim to meet a growing family-formation need in an era when many don’t want or don’t have time for love and marriage before the baby carriage.

Critics claim that this “coparenting movement”—families that start with the primary intention to raise shared children—is an affront to marriage, denies children the benefits of having coupled parents, and ignores the vast research finding that kids do best when raised by a married mom and dad. If these critiques sound familiar, they are. They are the very same concerns raised about low-income families trying to forge cooperative coparenting relationships in the aftermath of breakups or unplanned pregnancies. Poverty, unemployment, low wages, racism, and other disadvantages make it less likely that low-income parents will follow the marriage before childbearing script. Children born into poverty are much less likely to be born to married parents and more likely to experience their parents’ breakup.

It could be argued that these families, not the relatively privileged ones able to afford online services seeking coparents, are at the forefront of our society’s real coparenting movement. Middle-class families tend to experience parenting as a “package deal,” a clearly defined script that links parenthood to marriage. Yet many mothers and fathers in poverty tend to experience relationships with their children’s other parents as secondary. Dads especially see connections with moms as conduits to primary relationships with their kids. U.S. family policy does not always reflect this reality.

Addressing coparenting challenges has been a primary aim of anti-poverty policies since the federal government first funded marriage education and “responsible” fatherhood initiatives—also known as “family strengthening” policies—over two decades ago. Targeting coparenting makes a lot of sense given that low-income dads cite strained relationships with the mothers of their children as one of the biggest barriers to their involvement. Research also shows that when dads are positively involved, children benefit academically, socially, emotionally, and economically. Simply put, when moms and dads get along, coupled or not, dads are more likely to stick around, and kids do better. Policy certainly has that much right. The problem is assuming that promoting marriage and two-parent homes is an effective way to strengthen families.

Based on my research with more than 60 poor fathers of color in a government-funded responsible fatherhood program I call “DADS”, presuming that moms and dads are together romantically and want to get married can be counterproductive. Only about a third of the fathers I studied were in romantic relationships with the mothers of their children, and many of these were unsure about the future of these partnerships. Most men were not in DADS to improve their couple relationships based on package deal views of committed coparenting as a route to greater father involvement. Half even described how focusing on their relationships with mothers distracted them from their children, especially when persistent conflict over couple issues threatened to derail otherwise cooperative coparenting. They were in DADS to learn how to navigate and negotiate complex coparenting relationships with no hope for romantic reconciliation or marriage. They needed a new script that reflected their family realities.

DADS offered paid job training, a high-school completion program, and fathering and relationship skills classes. These resources gave economically vulnerable men—most of whom were persistently unemployed and struggled with the stigma of criminality—opportunities to prove to themselves and their children’s mothers that they were committed to becoming better fathers. They learned to see their children’s other parents, not as adversarial exes or potential romantic or sexual interests with whom they might reconcile, but as supportive allies equally invested in the well-being of their shared children. “Ricky,” a 22-year-old Black single father of one, told me that he learned: “When it’s just about my son, [his mom] and I talk, and everything is really good. Like she told me, ‘We got to get rid of everything you and me.’ I’m single because I got to have it be all about my son.” Worrying about the likely fighting had they gotten back together would have been a diversion from his fathering.

Other fathers described to me how DADS helped them realize that breaking up was the best way to improve their coparenting relationships. “Jeremiah,” 24, Black, and a single father who shared three children with two women, confided: “We’re a lot better now as parents that we have space from each other. I don’t get how some people, they’re not with their mate, so they don’t be with their children. They’re with somebody else and not paying attention to the kids. I would never do that. I want to be with the baby’s mother, but it’s harder being without the baby.” Like Jeremiah, many men learned through DADS that their best hope for cooperative coparenting was disentangling their romantic attachments, especially any related jealousies and hostilities, from fathering. The classes they took taught them to empathize with mothers and prioritize their shared children’s welfare over anything else. Fathers realized that what they often saw as mothers’ “gatekeeping” were well-intentioned efforts to protect and provide for kids.

Fathers’ financial constraints contributed to their coparenting challenges as much as any interpersonal conflicts and romantic quarrels. This made the school and job components of DADS just as valuable for managing coparenting challenges. Housing and food insecurity, unreliable transportation, and struggles to provide financially all compromised fathers’ abilities to be and be seen by mothers as reliable, responsible coparents. As “Christopher,” a 22-year-old Black father of one, told me: “Me and his mom have separated many times. I absolutely love her. We spend a lot of time together, but I have to float around. I don’t have a place to live right now. You just work it out with what you’ve got going on the next day. If things are going well with her, I have a place to live that day, and I get to see my son. But one time they left me, and she would not deal with me until I tried to better myself. She wouldn’t talk to me, so I went back to the streets and went to jail. I was making more money, but I realized I want to be with this woman. I agreed with her, so I came here. It’s keeping me straight.” Christopher saw DADS as his only chance to make legal money, stay out of jail, afford stable housing, get his on-again-off-again girlfriend to commit, and therefore regularly see his son.

Ricky, Jeremiah, Christopher, and their classmates saw DADS as a rare opportunity to overcome how relational and financial barriers intersected to complicate coparenting. Few of them, however, discussed plans to marry their children’s mothers in the near future. They had much more pressing family goals, including providing for themselves and their children and managing the interrelated strains of poverty and family complexity. DADS may not have gotten them any closer to the altar, but it gave them a way to prove to themselves, mothers, and others that they were capable and dedicated parents. Given that mothers’ views of fathers’ parenting abilities is highly predictive of fathers’ engagement with children, this is a huge success for any policy focused on increasing fathers’ involvement in their children’s lives. Fathers who were married or desired marriage still found support for their family-formation goals. But the more explicit focus on couples working together for the sake of children resonated for everyone in the program.

What about those critiques that prioritizing coparenting over marriage ignores research and denies children the benefits of married parents? What the research really finds is that kids do best when raised by parents and caregivers who get along, cooperate in children’s best interests, and have the resources and support to provide for all their needs. More programs like DADS that reflect how many parents prioritize bonds with children over partner relationships will go a long way in meeting the needs of families as they really are. That means accepting that many families rightly choose to forgo romance and marriage for the sake of the baby carriage. Family strengthening policies will be more effective when they do, too.

Jennifer Randles is Chair and Associate Professor of Sociology at California State University, Fresno. Follow her on Twitter at @jrandles3 and reach her at