Inevitably when I tell people that I study love letters and technology, someone participating in the conversation laments the way that texting and instant messaging have lessened the depth and thoughtfulness of love letters in today’s romantic relationships. A text is not a substitute for a handwritten note that takes time to write and symbolizes dedication to a relationship, they argue. But then another voice chimes into this conversation, offering something like this: “I love that my girlfriend and I can text each other little love notes. It’s quick, it’s in real time, and it makes me feel close to her even if she’s far away.”

A few years ago I was cleaning out a basement cabinet and found a box of old paper notes and love letters from high school, college, and graduate school. I brought the box upstairs and began rifling through the paper. My husband walked into the living room, saying to me as I sat amidst a pile of spiral notebook paper bits, “We started college before there was email and we ended college when the World Wide Web came into existence. I wonder if we’re the last generation of letter writers.” Around the same time I talked with a couple women about their love letters – one woman in her twenties who had saved texts from romantic partners in a memo folder on her smartphone, and one woman in her forties who had saved paper letters from her (now) husband that they had exchanged while studying abroad in college. Because of these conversations, I began to wonder whether gender and generation mattered in how people thought about the role of technology in romantic communication.

It is precisely these varied reactions – lamenting the loss of thoughtfulness, praising the access to real-time communication, and wondering about the role of rapidly changing technology on relationships for people from different groups – that my new book, Love Letters: Saving Romance in the Digital Age (Routledge 2018), dissects.

Through my own survey data, stories, and a rich weaving together of others’ research from a variety of academic disciplines, I tell the story not of the content of love letters exchanged on paper and via digital devices, but rather what people do with the love letters once they have them, and whether their format as digital or paper matters in terms of their meaningfulness to their owners. In other words, I study the curatorial practices of saving, storing, revisiting, organizing, and throwing away love letters. I do this because the objects in our lives – our material culture – not only impact our behaviors (think about how your smartphone shapes your behavior when it rings or dings during a class or concert); they also symbolize what we cherish or despise. More importantly, our actions surrounding these pieces of material culture require different kinds of bodily and emotional work depending on the relationship and on the digital or paper format – labor that I discuss in this podcast from The Verge. To save a thousand texts in a special folder requires not only the physical work of creating that folder by swiping and typing or by folding and stuffing, but also the emotional labor of discerning whether these saving practices are worth it given the type of relationship they symbolize.

My research reveals a few important findings. First, people overwhelmingly prefer saving paper love letters over digital ones, a pattern that spans all age groups (even among younger individuals for whom digital communication is more prevalent). But despite the preference for paper, people are more likely to use digital means to communicate to lovers. Thus, there is a mismatch between what people do and what they prefer their partners do. For people of different ages, this may stem from different causal mechanisms: for older individuals, they may prefer something from their past that they witness lessening; for younger individuals, they may prefer something they imagine as better despite not having experienced it much in their own lives. In both cases, there is a calling forth of a past image of love letters that is used to judge today’s practices.

Second, men and women differ in their love letter curatorial practices, especially with paper letters. Women are more likely to save love letters than men, but men look at the love letters they save more frequently than women. Women tend to store their love letters in, under, and behind things (e.g., in a drawer, under a bed), while men tend to store them on things (e.g., on a desk or bulletin board). Men and women are similar, as are people of varying ages, in the reasons why they may revisit love letters: people are as likely to look at a saved love letter intentionally (to reminisce fondly or remind themselves of what to avoid in the case of a negative relationship) as they are to stumble upon them accidentally (which is what I did when I found my box of old paper letters in my basement). And people across age and gender categories who get rid of love letters may do so for several reasons: to rid themselves of bad memories, to declutter, or to prevent others from seeing what they perceive to be highly private (often sexual) messages.

Most importantly, the underlying message of these and other findings in the book must be understood in light of social inequalities that move beyond individual preferences. In particular, the calling forth of a nostalgic image of handwritten paper love letters sent and received through the mail not only must be historically situated, as lots of epistolary research shows (mail delivery as we know it in contemporary society is not really that old; people have always adjusted to newer and quicker modes of communication exchange), but also must be understood in terms of privilege. To write, send, receive, and read a love letter that looks like those images found in popular culture and the marketplace began among those with tremendous privilege: those who were white, affluent, educated, literate, and geographically located in the Global North. This image of love letters was reserved for those who were among the most elite in Western society. If there’s one thing family scholars know, to mythologize past nostalgic images of family relationships as if they were universal not only fails to be historically accurate, it also becomes the basis for inaccurate and unfair judgment of today’s varied relationships. To label someone as unromantic because they send a text message rather than sitting down at a desk for an hour to handwrite a love letter upholds an image that historically was reserved for those who had plenty of time, money, and education.

When people lament the loss of paper handwritten love letter writing, they are really lamenting the loss of a nostalgic image of romantic love that has never been universal, and that has become part of a collective view of romance that is ahistorical, inaccurate, and was available only to privileged groups. What people do with their love letters – digital or paper – depends not only on individual preferences regarding orderliness, clutter, or sentimentality, but also on people’s access and attachment to powerful cultural values that make up contemporary views of romance such as individualization, taking time in a hectic world, longevity, privacy, and keeping cherished things in a safe place. These values are not accessible equally across groups. Ultimately, I contend, despite acknowledging that digital communication has changed how we view connectedness and the type of work we have to do to manage a huge amount of information, the cultural values that tell us how romantic love should be defined are more powerful than the format our love letters take.

Michelle Janning is Professor of Sociology at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. She studies the intersection between intimate relationships, domestic objects, and spaces and places, usually while cleaning out basement cabinets or looking under couch cushions. She enjoys nice pens and stationery, as well as inside jokes in texts from her husband. She is the author of The Stuff of Family Life: How our Homes Reflect our Lives (Rowman & Littlefield 2017).

Families Belong Together

DATE: June 21, 2018

A deluge of people who study and work with families, many of them among Council on Contemporary Families members, have joined scholars in other organizations (such as the American Psychological Association, Physicians for Human Rights, the American Anthropological Association and others listed here) to express concern and alarm about the family separation policy. We are sharing a statement on behalf of the 926 cosigning family scholars around the country.

Family Scholars and Experts Statement of Opposition to Policy of Separating Immigrant Families


We write as family scholars and experts to express our opposition to the Trump Administration policy of separating immigrant parents and children at the border as they enter the United States to seek refuge. This practice is an inhumane mistreatment of those seeking refuge from danger or persecution, and goes against international law. As scholars and experts devoted to identifying and sharing information relevant to policies to improve individual and family wellbeing, we deplore the Administration’s callous disregard of the overwhelming scientific information demonstrating the harm of separating children from their parents. This practice is known to be extremely traumatic for dependent children who stand a strong likelihood of experiencing lasting negative consequences from the sudden and inexplicable loss of their caregiver. Government should only separate children from their parents as a last resort when children are in danger of imminent harm. We urge the Administration to reconsider and reverse this policy.



Eileen Mazur Abel
Leisy Abrego, University of California Los Angeles
Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, Brandeis University
Katie Acosta, Georgia State University
Luke Adams, LMFT
Britni L. Adams, University of California Irvine
Fenaba Addo
Sarah Adeyinka-Skold, University of Pennsylvania
Janet Afary, University of California Santa Barbara
Ahmed Afzal, California State University Fullerton
Constance Ahrons, University of Southern California
Theresa Aiello, New York University
Brittnie Aiello, Merrimack College
Jennifer Ailshire, University of Southern California
Silke Aisenbrey, Yeshiva University
Randy Albelda, University of Massachusetts Boston
Aayat Ali, University of Michigan
Amanda Allan, University of Michigan
Elaine C. Allard, Swarthmore College
Katherine Allen, Virginia Tech
Adero Cheryl E Allison, Arizona State University
Marisa Allison, George Mason University
Rachel Allison, Mississippi State University
Rene Almeling, Yale University
Olga Alonso-Villar, Universidade de Vigo
Julie Alonzo, University of Oregon
Laura Alston
Jennifer Andersen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Donna Anderson, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Elaine A. Anderson, University of Maryland
Abigail Andrews, University of California San Diego
Sophia Angeles, University of California Los Angeles
Elizabeth A. Armstrong, University of Michigan
Rachel Arocho, The Ohio State University
Bruno Arpino, Pompeu Fabra University
Angela E. Arzubiaga, Arizona State University
Marysol Asencio, University of Connecticut
Nina Asher, University of Minnesota
Sagiv Ashkenazi, Psychologist
Lori Askeland, Wittenberg University
Ragui Assaad, University of Minnesota
Javier Auyero, University of Texas at Austin
Kate H. Averett, University at Albany SUNY
Patricia G. Avery, University of Minnesota
Melanie Ayres, University of Wisconsin – River Falls
Maria Aysa-Lastra
Betsy W Bach, University of Montana
M V Lee Badgett, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Roksana Badruddoja, Manhattan College
Regina Baker, University of Pennsylvania
Radhika Balakrishnan, Rutgers University
Nina Bandelj, University of California Irvine
Pallavi Banerjee, University of Calgary
Nina Banks, Bucknell University
Katherine Barko-Alva
Medora W. Barnes, John Carroll University
Ashley Barr, SUNY Buffalo
Veronica R. Barrios, Miami University
Phillip J Barrish, University of Texas-Austin
Bernadette Barton, Morehead State University
Professor Emerita Leslie Baxter, Univ of Iowa
Megan Doherty Bea, Cornell University
Brigitte Bechtold, Central Michigan University
Sam Beck, Cornell University
Jonathon Beckmeyer
Rebecca Bedwell, University of Arizona
Andrea Beller
Lourdes Beneria, Cornell University
Ellen C. Berg, California State University Sacramento
Suzanne Bergeron, University of Michigan Dearborn
Catherine White Berheide, Skidmore College
Debra Berl, University of Southern California
Danielle Bessett, University of Cincinnati
Amy Best, George Mason University
Jennifer L. Bevan
Amy Bhatt, University of Maryland
William T Bielby, University of Illinois Chicago and University of California
Carole Biewener, Simmons College
Martha Bigelow, University of Minnesota
Sharon Bird, Oklahoma State University
Abigail Bishop, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Consuelo Biskupovic, Chile
Margunn Bjørnholt, Policy and Social Research Norway
Tim Black
Maylei Blackwell, University of California Los Angeles
Sherry Blair
Mary Blair-Loy, University of California San Diego
Dee Blinka, LCSW, ACSW, BCD
Katrina R. Bloch, Kent State University at Stark
Linda Blum, Northeastern University
Chris Bobel, University of Massachusetts Boston
Arthur Bochner, University of South Florida
Deborah A. Boehm, University of Nevada
Catherine Bolzendahl, University of California Irvine
Jennifer Bouek, Brown University
Christine Bowditch, Lehigh Carbon Community College
Dr. Christie Boxer, Adrian College
Elizabeth Boyle, University of Minnesota
Jen Bradley, Swarthmore College
Amy Brainer, University of Michigan-Dearborn
Dawn O. Braithwaite, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Jenifer Bratter, Rice University
Caroline Brettell, Southern Methodist University
Karin L. Brewster, Florida State University
Tristan Bridges, University of California Santa Barbara
Tanya Broesch, Simon Fraser University
Elizabeth Levine Brown, George Mason University
Michelle Brown
Melissa Brown, Texas Woman’s University
Jason Brownlee, University of Texas at Austin
Emily Bruce, University of Minnesota–Morris
Angela Bruns, University of Michigan
Leah E. Bryant, DePaul University
Linda Lausell Bryant, New York University
Xiana Bueno, Harvard University
Bonnie Bui, University of California Irvine
Renee Bullock, IITA
Tina Burdsall, Portland State University
Thomas Burton, University of Alberta
Kevin Bush, Miami University
Erika Busse, Macalester College
Rachael Byrd, University of Arizona
Kate Cairns, Rutgers University
Jessica Calarco, Indiana University
Rebecca Callahan
Kristina Callina, Tufts University
Esther Calzada, University of Texas at Austin
Richard Carbonaro, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Emily Carian, Stanford University
Daniel L. Carlson, University of Utah
Laura M. Carpenter, Vanderbilt University
Deborah Carr, Boston University
Dianna Carrizales-Engelmann, University of Oregon
Megan Carroll, University of Southern California
Dr Julia Carter, University of West England
Monica J Casper, University of Arizona
Yasemin Besen Cassino
Mari Castaneda, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Diane T Castillo, Trauma Psychologist Independent Practice
Shannon Cavanagh, University of Texas
Olivia Celis
Andrea Gómez Cervantes, University of Kansas
Debadatta Chakraborty, Univ of Massachusetts – Amherst
Elizabeth Chambers
Paul Chang, Harvard University
Robin K. Chang, York University
Constance Chapple, University of Oklahoma
Maria Charles, University of California Santa Barbara
Charusheela, University of Washington
Anna Chatillon, Univ of California, Santa Barbara
Sergio Chavez, Rice University
Vanessa Chavez, Professional Counselors of El Paso
Janet Chavez
Leo Chavez, University of California Irvine
Ann Cheney, University of California Riverside
Kristen Cheney, International Institute of Social Studies
Melissa Cheyney, Oregon State University
Alberto Minujin, The New School and Equity for Children
Nancy J Chodorow, Cambridge Health Alliance/Harvard Medical School
Jaehee Choi, University of Texas at Austin
Esther Chow, American University
Savvina Chowdhury, Evergreen State College
Kimberly Christensen, Sarah Lawrence College
Heidi Cisneros, University of Southern California
Karen St. Clair, LCSW
Samuel J. Clark, Ohio State University
Mariah Clegg
Philip N. Cohen, University of Maryland
Avis H. Cohen, University of Maryland
Joshua Coleman, Council on Contemporary Families
Marilyn Coleman, University of Missouri
Jessica Collett, University of Notre Dame
Caitlyn Collins, Washington University in St. Louis
Tanya Cook Community, College of Aurora
Kelly Condit-Shrestha, University of Minnesota
Dalton Conley, Princeton University
Daniel Cook, University of Nevada Reno
Claire Cook, Middle Tennessee State University
Jeff Cookston, San Francisco State University
Marianne Cooper, Stanford University
Hector Cordero-Guzman, Baruch College-CUNY
Madeline Cordle, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
David A. Cotter, Union College
Carolyn Pape Cowan, UC Berkeley
Philip A. Cowan, University of California Berkeley
Kathleen Cramer, Faulty Emeritus University of Minnesota
M.A. Gabriel Crespo, The New School
Ana Croegaert, University of New Orleans
Robert Crosnoe, University of Texas at Austin
Christina Cross, University of Michigan
Elizabeth Culatta, Augusta University
Mick Cunningham, Western Washington University
Miranda Cunningham, Portland State University
Sarah E. Cunningham, Oregon State University
Jessica Daily, University of Oregon
Heather Dalmage, Roosevelt University
Sarah Damaske, The Pennsylvania State University
Colin Danby, University of Washington Bothell
Samuel David, University of Minnesota
Elsa Davidson, Montclair State University
Laura Davidson, Washoe County School District
Dr Laura Davies, Leeds Beckett University
S Davies
Rebecca Davis, University of Delaware
Shannon N. Davis, George Mason University
Leslie Davis, University of Maryland
Elizabeth Davis, University of California Riverside
Georgiann Davis, University of Nevada Los Vegas
Melissa Day, University of New Hampshire
Michelle Miller Day, Chapman University
Natalia Deeb-Sossa, University of California Davis
Carmen Diana Deere, University of Florida
Monica DeHart, University of Puget Sound
Lorraine Demi, University of Southern California
Vasilikie Demos
Anne Dempsey
Elizabeth DeMulder, George Mason University
Melinda Denton, University of Texas at San Antonio
Bella DePaulo, Social Psychologist
Brittany Dernberger, University of Maryland
Heather Dillaway, Wayne State University
Amy DiNoble
Julie Dobrow, Tufts University
Danielle Docka-Filipek, Christopher Newport University
Héctor Domínguez-Ruvalcaba, Univ of Texas at Austin
Robin Donath, LCSW
Kira Donnell, San Francisco State University
Rachel Donnelly, University of Texas at Austin
Jennifer Doty, University of Minnesota
Maria Duenas, University of California Merced
Lynn Duggan, Indiana University
Maria Duggan, University of Southern California
Catherine Dunn, Swarthmore College
Elizabeth Dunn, Indiana University
Kathleen Dyer, California State University
Margaret Van Dyke
Gary Dymski, University of Leeds
Nancy E. Dowd, University of Florida
George Earl
Ann Easterbrooks, Tufts University
Kim Ebert, North Carolina State University
Heather Edelblute, UTSA
Brad van Eeden-Moorefield, Montclair State University
Fabiola Ekleberry, LPC-S, NCC
Bert Eliason, University of Oregon
Kyla Ellis-Sloan, University of Brighton
Paula England, New York University
Laura Enriquez, University of California Irvine
Holly Straut Eppsteiner
Norman B. Epstein, University of Maryland
Joyce L. Epstein, Johns Hopkins University
Julia Erhart, Associate Professor, Flinders University
Jennifer Erickson, Ball State University
Stacy Ernst, University of Minnesota
Juan Raul Escobar, Observatorio Javeriano de Juventud
Gosta Esping-Andersen, Pompeu Fabra University
Ivan Evans, University of California San Diego
Lilia Fabila
Rick Fantasia, Smith College
Rebecca Fauth, Tufts University
Ann Fefferman, University of California Irvine
Cynthia Feliciano, University of California Irvine
Kathryn Feltey, University of Akron
Abby Ferber, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
Geri Ferber
Myra Marx Ferree, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Tina Fetner, McMaster University
April Few-Demo, Virginia Tech
David Fields, University of Utah
Jessica Fish, University of Maryland
Mona Fishbane, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist
Tobi Fishel, University of Southern California
David FitzGerald, University of California San Diego
Terence Fitzgerald, University of Southern California
Eugenie Flaherty
Erin K. Fletcher
Elizabeth Fogarty, University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Paula Fomby
Nanette Fondas, DBA., M.Phil.
Clare Forstie, Farmingdale State College SUNY
Bonnie Fox, University of Toronto
Kimberly Fox, Harvard University
Shawn Fremstad, Center for American Progress
Karin Friederic, Wake Forest University
Dr. Friedman, New York University
Frank Furstenberg, University of Pennsylvania
Michael Gaddis, University of California Los Angeles
Manuel G. Galaviz, University of Texas at Austin
Josie Gall, Viterbo University
Sally K. Gallagher, Oregon State University
Joshua Gamson, University of San Francisco
Lawrence Ganong, University of Missouri and CCF
Justin Garcia, Indiana University
Lorena Garcia, University of Illinois at Chicago
Myrna Garcia, Northwestern University
Michael Alexis Garcia, University of Texas at Austin
Rocío R. García, University of California Los Angeles
Pamela Garner, George Mason University
Betsie Garner, Tennessee Tech University
Sandy Gartin, LMFT (EMDR therapist)
Lauren Gaydosh, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Noni Gaylord-Harden, Loyola University Chicago
Claudia Geist, University of Utah
Susan Gerbino, New York University
Kathleen Gerson, New York University
Naomi Gerstel
Vawnee Gilbert, Eastern Michigan University
Alicia Girón, UNAM-MEXICO
Antonio Gisbert
Kalina Gjicali, Graduate Center CUNY
Jennifer Glass, University of Texas and CCF
Rebecca Glauber, University of New Hampshire
Miriam Gleckman-Krut, University of Michigan Sociology
James P. Gleeson, ACSW
Jennifer E. Glick, The Pennsylvania State University
Patricia Goedde, Sungkyunkwan Univ. Law School
Kristen Goessling, Penn State University Brandywine
Alice Goisis, London School of Economics
Rachel E. Goldberg, University of California Irvine
Jessica Goldberg, Tufts University
Jess Goldstein-Kral, University of Texas at Austin
Pilar Gonalons-Pons, University of Pennsylvania
Roberto G. Gonzales, Harvard University
Melinda Gonzales-Backen, Florida State University
Gonzalez-Lima, University of Texas at Austin
Gloria Gonzalez-Lopez, University of Texas at Austin
Kim Goodman, University of Southern California
Joan Goodman, University of Pennsylvania
Paul Goodman, Green Party
Elzbieta M Gozdziak, Georgetown University
Theodore N Greenstein, North Carolina State University
Elizabeth Gregory, University of Houston
Scott T. Grether, Longwood University
Lisa Gring-Pemble, George Mason University
Diane Grodney, New York University
Zoya Gubernskaya, University at Albany SUNY
Debra Guckenheimer, California State University East Bay
Jhumka Gupta, George Mason University
Sanjiv Gupta, University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Vanessa Gutierrez, University of Chicago
Karen Benjamin Guzzo, Bowling Green State University
Nora Haenn, North Carolina State University
Jacqueline M Hagan
Darcy Wente Hahn, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Nafisa Halim, Boston University
Robert D. Hall, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Macy Halladay, University of Tennessee
Pansy Hamilton, IAFFE Member
Laura Hamilton, University of California-Merced
Anna Hammersmith, Bowling Green State University
Karen V. Hansen, Brandeis University
Mary Beth Hanson, Women’s Foundation of Minnesota
Jennifer Hardesty, University of Illinois
Jessica H. Hardie, Hunter College
Michael P Harney
Scott Harris, Saint Louis University
Corey Harris, Alvernia University
Tracie Harrison UT Austin
Megan Haselschwerdt, University of Tennessee
Jennifer Haskin, Arizona State University
Anna Haskins, Cornell University
Elizabeth Y. Hastings, University of Texas at Austin
Angela Hattery, George Mason University
Orlee Hauser, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Robert L. Hawkins, New York University
Daniel Hawkins, University of Nebraska Omaha
Lindsey Haynes-Maslow
Melanie Heath, McMaster University
Rachel Heiman, The New School
Suzanne W Helburn
Lori Helman, University of Minnesota
Heather Helms, University of North Carolina Greensboro
Natalie D. Hengstebeck, Scholars Strategy Network / Duke
Joan Hermsen, University of Missouri
Rosanna Hertz, Wellesley College
Heather Hewett, SUNY New Paltz
Leah Hibel, University of California Davis
Jacob Hibel, University of California Davis
Marianne Hill
Lacey J. Hilliard, Tufts University
Emily P. Hoffman, Western Michigan University
Joan Hoffman, City University of New York
Prof. Heather Hofmeister, Goethe University Frankfurt
Dr. Bryndl Hohmann-Marriott, University of Otago
Elizabeth Holdsworth, University at Albany
Amanda Holman, Creighton University
Elizabeth Holt, Robert Morris University
Pierrette Hondageneu-Sotelo
Jennifer Hook, U of Southern California
Barbara E. Hopkins, Wright State University
Rodney Hopson, George Mason University
Sidney J. Horton
Kristen A Hostmeyer
Jason Houle, Dartmouth College
Leah Houtman, Community Doula Program
Aaron Hoy, Minnesota State University Mankato
Kathleen E. Hull, University of Minnesota
Audrey Hurley
Heather McKee Hurwitz
Diana Iglesias
Natalie Ingraham, California State University East Bay
Dorene Isenberg, University of Redlands
Patrick Ishizuka, Cornell University
Dr Maureen Ittig, Penn State Fayette
Crystal Jackson
Spencer James, Brigham Young University
Tyler Jamison, University of New Hampshire
Michelle Janning, Whitman College
Jonathan Jarvis, Brigham Young University
Daniela Jauk
Robert Jenkot, Coastal Carolina University
Carole Joffe, University of California Davis
Katherine M. Johnson, Tulane University
Wendi L. Johnson, Oakland University
Ben A. Johnson, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson, Washington State University
Lesa Johnson, California State University at Chico
Barbara Rose Johnston, Center for Political Ecology
Kelly Jones, American University
Meredith Jones, Univ of North Carolina at Wilmington
Allen Jordan, Utah Valley University
Terry Jordan, University of Southern California
Shareen Joshi
Rachel Kahn-Hut, San Francisco State University
Jennifer Kam, University of California Santa Barbara
Dr. Sophia Kanaouti, Hellenic Open University
Emily W. Kane, Bates College
Erika Kaplan, LICSW, Psychotherapist working with families
Matt Karush, George Mason University
Barret Katuna, Sociologists for Women in Society
Gayle Kaufman, Davidson College
Dr. Emily Kazyak, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Douglas Kelley, Arizona State University
Sheela Kennedy, University of Michigan
Oshin Khachikian, University of California Irvine
Mushira Khan
Farida Khan, Unversity of Colorado
Kalpana Khanal, Nichols College
Jill Kiecolt, Virginia Tech
Elizabeth Kiester, Albright College
Anna Killmeier, Oregon State University
Rachel Kimbro, Rice University
Mary C. King, Portland State University
Kendall A. King, University of Minnesota
Loni Knudsen, Brigham Young University Idaho
Sally A. Koblinsky, University of Maryland
Karen Kocher, University of Texas at Austin
Andrew Kohen, James Madison U
Ebru Kongar, Dickinson College
Dr. Jeanne Koopman, Boston University
Tanya Koropeckyj-Cox, University of Florida
Sherrie A. Kossoudji, University of Michigan
Barbara Koziak, St. John’s University
Evan Kraft, American University
Alena Křížková, Czech Academy of Sciences
Rhiannon Kroeger
Amy Kroska, University of Oklahoma
Laura Krull, UNC-Chapel Hill
Jaime Kucinskas, Hamilton College
Arielle Kuperberg, UNC Greensboro and CCF
Demie Kurz, University of Pennsylvania
Katherine Kuvalanka, Miami University
Kuldip Kuwahara, North Carolina Central University
Kim de Laat, University of Toronto
Melissa LaGraff, University of Tennessee Knoxville
Alison Landsberg, George Mason University
Barbara Larsen, Social Psychology
Louise Laurence
Nathanael Lauster, University of British Columbia
Erin Lavender-Stott, South Dakota State University
Vanja Lazarevic, San Diego State University
C.N. Le, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Karen W. Leaf, MSW, LCSW
Amy Lee, University of Minnesota
Robyn Lee, University of Alberta
Jennifer Lee, Columbia University
Catherine Lee, Rutgers University
Evelyn Lehrer
Mara Leichtman, Michigan State University
Mušić Lejla, Sarajevo University
Winnie Lem, Trent University
Lora Bex Lempert, University of Michigan-Dearborn
Eileen B. Lemus, University of Southern California
Jenny Lendrum, Wayne State University
Richard M. Lerner, Tufts University
Leigh Leslie, University of Maryland
Jaime Lester, George Mason University
Bethany Letiecq, George Mason University
Tama Leventhal, Tufts University
Jessica Leveto, Kent State University at Ashtabula
Judith A. Levine, Temple University
Deborah Levison, University of Minnesota
Ricci Levy, Woodhull Freedom Foundation
Amy Lewin, University of Maryland
Anne Lewis, University of Texas at Austin
Kevin Lewis, University of California San Diego
Cynthia Lewis, University of Minnesota
Joellen Lewsader, Central Michigan University
Caroline Lim, University of California Los Angeles
Lynne May Lim, Eliot Pearson Children’s School
Carol S Lindquist, Texas Tech University
Nathan Wong Link, Rutgers University
Margaret Linn, Swarthmore College
Adam Lippert
Noah De Lissovoy, University of Texas at Austin
Roseann Liu, Swarthmore College
Jeni Loftus, University of Memphis
Diertra Lomeli, University of Oregon
Linda Long, University of Southern California
Kristina Lopez, Arizona State University
Judith Lorber, City University of New York Graduate Center
Judith Lorber, City University of New York
Amy Lucas
LInda E Lucas, Eckerd College
Virgen Luce, New York University
Shelly Lundberg, University of California Santa Barbara
M.Brinton Lykes, Boston College
Dr. Gertrude Lyons
Norah MacKendrick, Rutgers University
Michael MacKenzie, Rutgers University
Erin Madden, University of Texas at San Antonio
Cari Maes, Oregon State University
Deanne Magnusson , University of Minnesota
Katheryn Maguire, Wayne State University
Sarah J Mahler FIU
James W. Messerschmidt University of Southern Maine
Shannon Malone, University of Texas at Austin
Emily Mannheimer, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Jimmie Manning, Northern Illinois University
Alex Manning, University of Minnesota Sociology
Valerie L Manusov, University of Washington
Diane Rothbard Margolios, University of Connecticut
Rachel Margolis, University of Western Ontario
Susan Markens, City University of New York
Melinda Stafford Markham, Kansas State University
Jaclyn Marsh, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Nancy Marshall, Wellesley College
Megan Marshall, QMHP
Lauren Jade Martin, The Penn State University
Molly Martin, The Pennsylvania State University
Patricia Yancey Martin
Blake Martin, North Carolina State University
Alberto Martinez, University of Texas at Austin
Claudia Masferrer, El Colegio de México and McGill Univ
Thomas Masterson, Levy Economics Inst. of Bard College
Jordanna Matlon, American University
Jordan Matsudaira, Teachers College Columbia University
Caitlin Maudlin, Community Doula Program
Laura Mauldin, University of Connecticut
David J. Maume, University of Cincinnati
MJ Maynes, University of Minnesota
Edwin Mayorga, Swarthmore College
Joan Maya Mazelis, Rutgers University-Camden
Chad McBride, Creighton University
Janice McCabe, Dartmouth College
Linda C. McClain, Boston University School of Law
Lauren McClain, Western Kentucky University
Katherine McClelland, Franklin and Marshall College
David McClendon, Children at Risk
Elizabeth Aura McClintock, University of Notre Dame
Jill McCorkel, Villanova University
Kelly McDonough, University of Texas at Austin
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Special help from Philip Cohen, Frank Furstenberg, Joanna Pepin, and Virginia Rutter.

Reposted from Psychology Today. 

The majority of Americans today believe in equality. Nearly three-quarters of American adults (73%) say the trend toward more women in the workforce has been a change for the better. And 62% of adults believe that a marriage in which the husband and wife both have jobs and both take care of the house and children provides a more satisfying life than one in which the husband provides for the family and the wife takes care of the home. But despite real progress in men’s participation in family life, Moms usually remain the default parent while Dads help out but do not take charge. Women’s income, not men’s, is often seen as what pays for the childcare. Another recent study of American families shows that mothers multi-task more than fathers, do it more often at the office, and feel more burdened than men by having to always be doing two things at once time.

So what is going on here? Is there an international plot to maintain patriarchy, as conspiracy theorists might argue? Or are women naturally suited to housecleaning and men are just not up to the task, as so many anti-feminists claim? Are today’s husbands really Neanderthals that come home from a long day’s work, drink beer, and expect their wives to wait on them?

Perhaps my own experience loading the dishwasher a few months ago can provide some clues. I don’t do housework very often. As a university professor, researcher, and author who always has writing deadlines looming while I travel to conferences and lectures, both in the US and overseas, I’m ridiculously over-scheduled. My husband is semi-retired, works from home and so with his flexible schedule, spends a lot of his time following me around the world. He doesn’t pick up the slack in our home; he runs our household. One Saturday morning after being served fabulous French toast, I insisted on cleaning up for a change. Within minutes, I was lecturing him on how the dishes already in the dishwasher weren’t rinsed well enough, or stacked neatly. He smiled at me and said, “So when was the last time you ate on a dirty dish?”

If I can find myself, without thinking twice about it, lecturing my husband on how to load a dishwasher, when I haven’t touched a dirty dish in months. How hard must it be for women who’ve been doing the dishes and the meals and taking care of the kids to accept their husbands as competent partners? Or even as partners who might become competent once they were responsible for the tasks?

I have no doubt there are men out there who are simply sexist self-serving narcissists who want wives to do the second shift so they drink beer, play golf, and watch TV. But are there not also some women who just cannot stop themselves from lecturing our partners on how to launder clothes, stack the dishes, put away the groceries and dress the children. Many moms I have talked with even leave lists of what to put into the lunch box when they travel for business–as if their husband isn’t smart enough to figure out what to put between two slices of bread. Why would these successful women have married men they can’t trust to make a sandwich or pick out a toddler’s outfit? The assumption of male incompetence at home has the same result as expecting women to be incompetence at work. It makes the recipients less likely to take on responsibility, to do the job well, or to show initiative.

Perhaps part of why men aren’t stepping up to the plate as equal partners is because women don’t let them. It’s not that women don’t want their husbands to share the job and the joys of parentingResearch shows clearly that they do, and that there are even benefits in the bedroom when people feel their marriage is fair. But we women have set the rules for how housework is done for so long, and often take so much pride in our mothering identities, that we don’t leave enough room for fathers to be equal players. Perhaps mothers are worried about what the neighbors will think if their son’s outfits are not matching, or their daughter’s shirts have stains? Is such shame worth undercutting men’s responsibility for domestic labor? Surely, if a man was worth marrying, he’s talented enough to wash dishes, make play dates, and clean the toilet.

So for Father’s Day, let’s show dad’s some respect. The best gift might just be to respect your partner enough to let him load the dishwasher without comment, and take care of the kids without fearing his your evaluation. Here ’s a gift idea for wives on this Father’s Day: stop giving directions, stop running the show and then resenting that you carry the load of the family work. Give Dads a break this year for Father’s Day. Trust them enough to lean out at home. And if you have to occasionally eat from a dirty plate, as I do, it’s worth it. Let your guy lean in for a change.

Barbara J. Risman is a Distinguished Professor of Sociology in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She is also a Senior Scholar at the Council on Contemporary Families.

Even in the most affluent societies, many young people grow up in families that are poor and/or unstable in some way, and the evidence is clear that this experience can lead to behaviors that put their futures at risk. That risk, however, is not necessarily going to be same across societies, and figuring out where it is most and least pronounced is an important task for family researchers.

The U.S., as is often noted, has a much less generous social safety net for families and children than many other countries; less generous than Scandinavian countries, of course, but also compared to the other wealthy, English-speaking countries that it is often grouped with in the broad category of “liberal welfare regimes”. As a result, children who grow up in the U.S. are much more likely than their peers in these other countries to experience some key risks to positive development, such as family poverty and instability. There is just not enough protection for their families and communities, and so they are more likely to enter adolescence in dire straits. Indeed, based on research from a range of interdisciplinary scholars, including Timothy Smeeding, Jane Waldfogel, Barbara Bergman, and Patrick Heuveline, we know that kids in the U.S. are worse off, but is being worse off worse in the U.S.?

My students and colleagues in the U.S., U.K., and Canada have been trying to provide some answers to this question. This research reflects some key lessons of contemporary family and developmental research. Specifically, we are viewing family poverty and family structure not as single and static states but rather as a long-term pattern of continuity and change. We also are focusing on adolescence, a period in which complicated patterns of brain development, parent-child relations, and peer orientation lead to behaviors with heightened potential for harm. Doing so has revealed that, although the odds of growing up in poor and/or unstable families and engaging in adolescent risk-taking are both generally greater in the U.S., the link between these two things is not always stronger in the U.S.

For example, in a study that came out this year in the journal Social Science and Medicine, Michael Green, Haley Stritzel, Chelsea Smith Gonzalez, Frank Popham, and I compared longitudinal population datasets in the U.S. and U.K. to examine adolescent health and health behavior. We categorized young people in terms of their histories of family poverty since birth (e.g., early poverty only, persistent poverty, later downward mobility). The results clearly show that the accumulating experience of poverty over time is much more prevalent in the U.S., that this accumulating experience is associated with smoking and health limitations in both countries, but that this association does not really differ across countries.

As another example, in a forthcoming study in the Journal of Marriage and Family, Chelsea Smith Gonzalez, Lisa Strohschein, and I compared longitudinal population datasets in the U.S. and Canada to examine teen pregnancy. We counted how much of girls’ lives since birth they had spent in poverty and how many family structure changes they had experienced.  Similar to the other study, the results clearly reveal more long-term exposure to poverty and instability in the U.S. and that such exposure is associated with greater odds of a girl getting pregnant as a teen. This study, however, also revealed a country-level difference in this association. In the U.S., prolonged experiences of family poverty and family structure were associated with teen pregnancy, but, in Canada, any experience of family poverty and family structure change was. In other words, there was a dosage effect of family poverty and instability in the former and a threshold effect in the latter.

To be clear, we are not saying that family poverty and instability do not matter to adolescent behavior. They do. We are also not saying that social policies do not protect young people from harm. They do. We are also not saying that the circumstances of young people in the U.S. are the same as those in the U.K. and Canada. They are not. What we are saying is that the ability of social policies to buffer against the risks of family poverty and instability—once they have arisen—is not as neatly straightforward as one might assume.

Our work represents the comparison of three relatively similar countries, only two family variables, and only three adolescent outcomes.  As such, it is just a drop in the expanding bucket of population research comparing family contexts of child and youth development across countries. There is more to know here. How is family poverty and instability experienced by young people across countries in which it is more or less normative? Which domains of adolescent development are most and least reactive to family disadvantages across countries? Are there differences in patterns for children, adolescents, and young adults? Expanding the comparison pool to countries with much more generous welfare regimes than the U.S. and much less economic development than the U.S. is also important. What we offer here, therefore, is encouragement to keep this conversation going.

Robert Crosnoe is the Rapoport Professor of Liberal Arts and Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and President of the Society for Research on Adolescence.

Picture by Pexel

Reposted from Psychology Today 

Enough already. Aziz Ansari is not a rapist nor necessarily even a liar. Nor is “Grace” the woman who had the worst night of her life either a victim or a vixen. They are both casualties of our gender structure. Let me explain.

Most people think that gender is an identity, some authentic knowledge about the self. But identity is really only a small part of how gender structures our lives, our society. If we want to understand what happens in heterosexual hook ups, we have to understand the gendered meanings of the hook up culture. Every society has an economic structure, and so too every society, including ours, has a gender structure which has implications for our personalities, our expectations of others, our ideology about what should be, and our acceptance (or rejection) of sexual inequality.

Gender is part of how we define ourselves. Most of us are still raised to be good little boys and girls.  Good boys don’t cry, but they do get notches in their belts from peers for objectifying women, and pursing them sexually.   Girls are told they can be anything they want to be, you go girl, but when it comes to their bodies, they should accessorize fashionably and please men. Girls may ‘rule’ but they are still expected to be nice when doing so.  And of course, women remain the sexual gatekeepers, deciding when boys get that notch on their belt. There is strong evidence that gender gets inside us, that socialization helps create feminine girls and masculine boys.  Socialization shapes how we behave. Girls like “Grace” are taught to be nice, to be subtle and polite in their rejection of men, to give off non-verbal cues rather than causing a scene or using a four letter word. Boys learn that they are entitled to get what they want, but only if they go for it.  They are taught to tackle, to score. No one has to do anything to encourage women and men to behave this was as adults, gender is internalized into who we are.

But that’s only the beginning of the explanation for the he said/she said sexual drama, the overt and covert coercion that the #MeToo movement has illuminated. Gender isn’t only how femininity cripples women, nor how toxic masculinity empowers men. It is also the expectations we take for granted, when we interact, and the unconscious scripts that have problematic outcomes, including  during heterosexual casual sex. Erotic imagination in male-centric. Take this date in question.  The woman spent time discussing an outfit with friends; she is attempting to appear desirable. Aziz controlled the very existence of the encounter (doing the asking) and orchestrated it (choosing the wine, the restaurant, and paying the bill). Without conscious reflections, cultural expectations and scripts are followed: the man’s agency creates the date, the man is the sexual aggressor, the woman sought after, and paid for. This is still the lay of the land in 2018, the script that “Grace” describes of her evening with Aziz. Has he bought just dinner, or the expectation of sexual intercourse?

What men and women expect from one another is not just a part of their relationship, but part of a societal story  about sexual desire, desirability, nudity, and power. Does a woman who goes to a man’s home, undresses, and acquiesces to receiving  oral sex providing non-verbal cues that she intends to have penetrative sex? No woman should ever be pressured into any kind of sex. And yet, the narrative of heterosexual seduction at the core of our romantic myths includes  a reluctant woman won over by a persistent suitor. Pair that with the material wealth and status advantage most men have over their dates (and the super star quality of this particular man) and you get an explosive potion for coercion, under the cover of erotic play. And a prescription for male privilege: research shows clearly that men are far more likely to orgasm in a hook up then are their dates. Our heterosexual script has desirable women seduced by powerful, sexual men.  If you disagree, explain how the movie 50 shades of grey made such a fortune.

Sexual coercion, non-consensual sex, is always wrong. Any form of assault is a crime. And still, there are shades of grey, beyond 50, when women and men are confused by a changing gender structure. In today’s world everything is in flux. As my forthcoming book suggests, some young adults totally reject their socialization as feminine male-pleasing women and chauvinistic men and instead try to incorporate both masculinity and femininity into their personalities.  Others fully endorse a world where men are expected to be the pursuers of feminine woman.   Our gender structure is changing, but unevenly, and without any clear guidelines.  When it comes to casual hetero sex, gender is embedded in our own desires, our expectations for partners, and acceptance of cultural norms, and power differentials. And desire, expectations of acceptable norms may contradict one another.

Perhaps half way thru the encounter a woman decides she’s had enough, and doesn’t care any more about being desirable for a powerful man she does not desire.  She can, and should, dress and walk away. But her socialized internal gendered self, however, may scream: be nice.  And so she politely tries to indicate non-verbally, she’s not into it. He should get the hint.  But then again, his training for masculinity, toxic as it may have been, screams keep trying, that she’ll get into it eventually, if he is just seductive and persistent enough. She feels pressured, he becomes a predator. Neither plans on the transformation of a date into a #MeToo moment.

The only way out is to smash the gender structure entirely. Let’s stop arguing about whether she should have been more assertive (less girly) and walked away earlier, or whether he should have understood her signals.  It’s both/and not either/or.  Let’s stop raising masculine boys and feminine girls. Stop teaching girls to be nice, even to men who pressure them.  Stop raising boys who feel entitled to sex even if their partner is not enthusiastic. Let’s raise boys to have empathy for others, to cry when they feel pain.  Let’s raise good people, not women and men.  We must shatter gender stereotypes, including those about dating and sex. All people experience desire and arousal, seek orgasms, and love. No one should wait to be desired, nor be expected to give more then they get, whether sex or love.  Can this happen when men still hold the power outside of the bedroom? Probably not.  The male privilege deeply embedded in our gender structure must end everywhere: how we raise our children, what we expect from one another, and the distribution of power and prestige at work, in government, in Hollywood, including between the sheets.

Barbara J. Risman is a Distinguished Professor of Sociology in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She is also a Senior Scholar at the Council on Contemporary Families.

Will Meghan Markle be welcomed in the royal family? The recent wedding of Markle, a biracial woman of Black and White heritage, and Prince Harry, a White male member of the British royal family, marks a social milestone. More than fifty years out from the Supreme court decision that legalized interracial marriages across all 50 states in the U.S., this wedding has inspired a new conversation about racial inclusivity infusing “bicultural Blackness” within a traditionally white elite. The celebratory tone makes sense as mixed-race couples represent 17 percent of recently married couples in the United States. This increased demographic prominence also coincides with broad based approval. According to the Pew Research Center, 88 percent of millennials say they would be “fine with a family member’s marriage” to any racial group.

But is true acceptance solely being “fine” with a racially different in-law? While crossing racial lines has reached broad-based acceptance, do mixed-race families have access to the same supports from kin as their single-race peers? Families also routinely provide a range of vital resources, such as financial help, sharing residence, or child care.

The story on this front is considerably more complicated. A new short report, authored by myself and Ellen Whitehead and recently published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, reveals that White mothers of biracial infants are less likely than White mothers with White infants to report that they can rely on friends or family for help if needed. Interestingly, differences were not uncovered for either Black or Latina mothers.

How can interracial couples experience nearly universal acceptance and be more likely to perceive isolation from family resources? First, sociologists often note that approving of something in principle does not always translate into practice. This extends to interracial marriage, as sociologists Mary Campbell and Melissa Herman identify clear differences between Whites approval of interracial marriage and their likelihood of forming interracial relationships. Whites therefore may continue to hold, while not explicitly disclosing, negative attitudes toward interracial coupling.

Beyond, the broader context of race and class inequality needs to be more central to how we talk about and understand the dynamics of racial mixing. Differences in support between Whites with biracial and single race infants reveal the endurance of a white/non-white divide that can be found in nearly every social sphere – where we live, whom we call our friends, and where we go to school. How can interracial couples seamlessly traverse boundaries that remain intact?

In addition, race does not solely divide our associations, it also divides our access to resources, significantly influencing what families may be able to give. According to Pew, Blacks and Latinx families are more than twice as likely as Whites to be poor as of 2014. This broadly aligns with findings on absent resources. While a large share of White mothers of biracial infants reported having absent resources, their levels were quite close to perceptions reported by Black and Latina mothers, nearly 30 percent of whom report that family and friends could not help them in some way if needed. White women with white (single-race) infants were the most privileged, with only 10 percent reporting lack of support.

Experiences of interracial families lie at the nexus of race and class divides. While the expansion of mixed-race family formation signals the growing normalizing of interracial coupling, how families fare is more telling in how, or if, barriers are truly crossed.

Jenifer Bratter is a full professor of sociology at Rice University.  She is a sociologist and demographer whose research explores racial mixing and its implications for unequal racial outcomes.  She has recently published articles in Journal of Marriage and Family, Ethnicity and Health, Social Science Research, and Race and Social Problems. Email her at

Picture by Surdumihail via pixabay

Re-posted from Education Week

The #MeToo movement has brought to the forefront what has been a long-standing concern for women across various communities: sexual harassment and, more broadly, gender inequality.

It’s critical that we implement sanctions against perpetrators of sexual harassment and that we increase men’s awareness of what is and is not acceptable. But this movement also highlights the need for thinking more seriously about how we teach children and teens about these issues.

Sexual harassment is not merely something that young people will need to contend with sometime in their distant future when they are adults in the workforce. Rather, it is something many of them, especially girls, are experiencing right now and right in their schools. Like it or not, schools are formally and informally communicating lessons to their students about expectations for men’s and women’s sexual conduct. Thus, we should look to education as a significant avenue to tackle sexual harassment and gender inequality.

In particular, we need to rethink what is typically referred to as “sex education.” First, we need to change the very word we use for it from “sex” education to “sexuality” education. This education must address not just “the birds and the bees,” but sexual harassment, including the ways in which it sometimes affects different groups of women and girls.

The conventional wisdom about sexuality education in schools is that there are two choices: an abstinence-only curriculum or a comprehensive curriculum that includes both abstinence and other topics, such as options for preventing pregnancy and protecting individuals from contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

While research has largely established that the latter approach is more effective than abstinence-only education in delaying sexual activity and reducing adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, comprehensive sexuality education would be even more effective if it were even more comprehensive.

One way to do this is to expand sexuality education curricula to incorporate lessons about sexual harassment and gender inequality. A 2011 nationally representative survey commissioned by the American Association of University Women found that nearly half of middle and high school students surveyed reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment during the 2010-2011 academic year. Girls were more likely than boys to be sexually harassed, but the problem was widespread across genders: 56 percent of girls and 40 percent of boys reported experiencing sexual harassment. This included in-person sexual harassment, such as unwelcome touching or sexual jokes, as well electronic sexual harassment, such as unsolicited pictures or videos.

I have encountered this high rate of sexual harassment in my own research as well. When interviewing Latina girls in Chicago on their sexual experiences, I heard repeated stories of boys groping them in the hallway or making sexual comments about their bodies in school.

Teachers and other school employees need better training in how to identify and stop sexual harassment. In her 2007 book Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School, sociologist C. J. Pascoe found that teachers frequently witness the harassment yet fail to do anything about it, or they may minimize the seriousness of the incident.

It is also important that school employees become aware of how unconscious racial biases may influence their perceptions of such incidents. Research shows that black and Latinx students face more disciplinary action and are assumed to be more adult-like and less innocent, and thus in less need of protection. Researchers, including Monique Morris and Jody Miller, have documented how school personnel routinely label black girls as “loud,” or “unladylike” when they are perceived to fail to conform to white, middle-class expectations of femininity.

Such research demonstrates how racial and gender stereotypes of girls of color can inform some school personnel’s understanding of their harassment. It can even lead educators to punish these girls’ attempts to protect themselves or to assume they provoked their own sexual harassment.

The prevalence of sexual harassment in schools also suggests that sexuality education should be made more comprehensive in terms of when it is taught. Instead of treating it as a discrete topic limited to health class, it should be incorporated into other aspects of school.

In rethinking sexuality education to address the issue of sexual harassment, for instance, schools need to think about dress-code policies. By focusing almost exclusively on girls’ attire, school officials often reinforce the sexual double standard that permits boys more freedom than girls, thereby reinforcing gender inequality. Instead, schools should concentrate on training school personnel and students on identifying, preventing, and addressing sexual harassment.

These lessons can also be incorporated into classroom discussion, where students could learn and dialogue about relevant topics in an age-appropriate manner. For instance, students can explore Title IX through history class assignments. Students’ familiarity with the federal law—which prohibits sex discrimination in educational activities and programs by institutions that receive federal funds—can empower them to demand gender equity in their schools, as well as in the larger society. Gender equity can also be examined in the social studies classroom, where teachers can facilitate student discussions of gender stereotypes in the media, for example. These types of classroom activities can also assist students in developing media-literacy skills, such as understanding how our engagement with media relates to social interactions.

Young people are already facing sexual harassment in their lives, including their schools. Why not help them take it on now in a more structured context? It’s time to start these conversations earlier, help youths recognize harassment, call it out, and demand that something be done about it. Maybe this can help us move in a more concerted effort to stop making sexual harassment and gender inequality a “normal” aspect of our culture. It’s gone on too long. It’s about time we figure it out.

Lorena Garcia is an associate professor of sociology and Latin American and Latino studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a sociologist who studies the intersections of gender, sexuality, and race and the author of Respect Yourself, Protect Yourself: Latina Girls and Sexual Identity (New York University Press, 2012).

On April 24, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services rang the death knell on work authorization for spouses of high-skilled immigrant workers. Under the direction of the White House, the USCIS conducted an audit of the H-1B guest worker program, specifically to see if it complies with the President’s Buy American, Hire American executive order. In a report submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the director of the USCIS proposed sweeping changes to the program, including removing regulations that would allow the spouses of H-1B workers to obtain work permits.

Despite being an established program for almost thirty years, the H-1B program has become a target for the current administration. The H-1B visa program first came into existence after the passage of the 1990 Immigration Act.  As the tech boom of the 1990s and rising fears about “Y2K” created a demand for technically-trained labor, U.S. companies began to seek workers from around the world.  The H-1B is given to workers in “specialized and complex” jobs. Typically issued for three to six years, the visa allows employers to hire foreign workers.

While the visa has always been classified as a “temporary nonimmigrant visa,” employers can sponsor the visa holders for permanent residency. The program also created the H-4 family reunification visa, which go overwhelmingly to the women spouses of workers. Children under the age of 21 years are also eligible for the H-4 visa.

The H-4 visa has real benefits for foreign workers, as it allows hundreds of thousands of family members to migrate to the U.S. along with the primary visa holder. Employers have supported the H-1B and H-4 visa, arguing that companies can bring the “best and brightest” to work in the U.S., particularly if they can also bring their families along. However, the visa also comes with restrictions: H-4 visa holders can’t work legally, apply for a social security number, or qualify for many federal education programs.

In my ethnographic study of H-1B and H-4 visa holders, I document the long-lasting negative impacts of these work restrictions on women’s careers, emotional health, and economic well-being. Many spouses of H-1B workers are also well educated and have advanced degrees, but after moving to the U.S., they become housewives. Their dependency creates other problems as well. In cases of domestic violence, H-4 visa holders have difficult leaving their partners without putting their own visas at risk.

There has been some relief for H-4 spouses who were already in the process of applying for their green cards. In 2015, the Obama administration issued an executive order that allowed H-4 visa holders employment authorization. But that authorization is contingent on the good standing of the primary H-1B visa holder. In other words, if their partner loses the H-1B, the spouse also loses her work authorization.

Even with this risk, the ability to work has provided welcome respite for tens of thousands of dependent spouses.  After spending years stuck at home, the chance to join the workforce is important both psychologically and economically vital. As my study and recent reports have shown, many families delay making major life choices or even having children until both partners are able to work. Having two incomes also offsets the high cost of living in regions where H-1B workers are concentrated. In addition, women’s participation in the workforce can translate into greater gender equity at home.

However, with this most recent report by the USCIS, we not only see a mandate to severely curtail the number of H-1B visas granted, but also to eliminate rights for their family members. As my research has shown, when immigrant women are given opportunities to become economically productive, they are more likely to stay in the U.S., and receive numerous other benefits. Ending the ability of immigrant spouses to work will undoubtedly reduce the amount of highly skilled workers willing to move to and stay in the U.S.

Amy Bhatt is an Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Contact her at

Marriage in Black: The Pursuit of Married Life among American-Born and Immigrant Blacks (Routledge, 2018) by Katrina Bell McDonald and Caitlin Cross-Barnet examines contemporary Black marriages in the United States. Based upon in-depth interviews with 60 couples, they examine the historical and continuing impact of racial inequalities in the United States on Black marriages, distinct features of Black marriages, and the diversity among Black marriages. Their interviewees included African American couples, immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean, and White American couples. I enjoyed reading the book and recently had the opportunity to interview the authors.

AK: What are some of the ways that you found racial inequalities in the United States impact Black marriages in contemporary society?

KBM and CC-B: There are so many angles to consider in response to this question. If we consider the legacy of African American life from the slave era onward, there have been enormous efforts by the state to exert social control over Black relationships. Under slavery, legal marriage was prohibited, but after emancipation, Black couples were pressured or forced to formalize their unions. The context of heterosexual marriage in the United States has historically been situated in White patriarchy, but the privilege accorded White men to support that model of marriage was never extended to Black men. Thus, you see a long history of paid employment among Black wives; married White women didn’t meet married Black women’s employment rates until the 1990s. Systemic racism is a constant for Black couples—structural barriers mean that couples have to negotiate discrimination in housing, employment, the criminal justice system, and everyday interactions with institutions ranging from government offices to the grocery store. That stress spills over into relationships and can create instability that is beyond a couple’s control. But then there also is an increasing proportion of the American Black population that is made up of immigrants. The context of marriage is different in Caribbean and African countries, but their cultural practices and meanings of marriage (in those countries as well as in the United States) don’t always conform to conventions in the United States. And then there is the question of assimilation. Institutionalized racism has historically prevented the assimilation of American-born Blacks into the full privileges of White American middle-class life, so for Black immigrants, what does assimilation mean?

AK: What other distinctive features did you find among Black marriages?

KBM and CC-B: Part of what we found is that there aren’t necessarily any universal features of Black marriage. Intersectional identities make it difficult to define “Black marriage” because individuals have many more components to their identities than race. Black families do have to confront particularly entrenched institutionalized racism, and that means there are certain problems Black couples are more likely to face or just fear—poverty, housing discrimination, incarceration. But when it comes to couples’ ideals or behavior, there are wide variations in marital ideals and practices by social class and immigration status in addition to variation by individuals, creating much more diversity among Black couples than we saw between Black couples and White couples (our sample included 14 White couples). Our sample was small—61 couples all living in the same geographic area—so there could be clearer patterns that would emerge in a larger group, but that would probably be true of any categorization of people, such as by social class or geographic location. That being said, we did find a few patterns that we thought were worthy of further investigation (see next question).

AK: One thing that struck me about your book was the diversity you found among the Black couples you interviewed. What were some differences you found among Black married couples?

KBM and CC-B: Sociologists have speculated that Black married couples are more egalitarian than couples of other ethnic backgrounds, particularly Whites, and because we were looking at Black couples from such diverse backgrounds, we were excited about investigating that idea more deeply. We did find that, regardless of their marital ideals, American-born Black couples were more likely than Whites or immigrant Blacks to share tasks and power fairly equally and that black husbands generally weren’t threatened by Black wives’ income earning power. Conservative religious values of headship and submission expressed by some American-born Black couples actually translated into more role sharing in daily life because the men were more involved with their families. No couple ever used the word “egalitarian,” but some couples professing to share everything “fifty/fifty,” still left the wife with most of the responsibility for housework and childcare even though she worked.

But the American-born Blacks were distinct from the Caribbean and African immigrants, who had radically different approaches to ideas of egalitarianism. African immigrants usually said they wanted to “adjust” or “adapt” to more egalitarian practices, which they saw as distinctly American and necessary to life in America. They generally weren’t fully egalitarian, but they were certainly not replicating the practices they had grown up with in their home countries, where they commonly compared their fathers to “dictators.” Caribbean immigrants, particularly men, were the opposite, wanting to maintain patriarchal power they would have had on the Islands. Caribbeans–and also whites—who were more conservative or traditional attached those values to economic power for men and felt strongly that men should be providers and that mothers shouldn’t work outside the home. For American-born Blacks, working wives and mothers were a norm regardless of the couples’ marital ideals.

Sometimes quantitative work can lead people to believe that an aggregate difference between two groups indicates that there is homogeneity within each group. When it comes to “Black marriage,” that perspective has often led people to view Black couples as deficient because marriage rates are lower than those among white couples, and poverty and divorce rates are higher.  But there are lots of Black couples who marry and work things out, and within the group of those who do, there are many approaches to being in a marriage.

Katrina Bell McDonald is Associate Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of Africana Studies at The Johns Hopkins University. Caitlin Cross-Barnet is a federal researcher and an Associate at the Hopkins Population Center. Arielle Kuperberg is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Follow her on twitter at @ATKuperberg.

A brief report prepared for the Council on Contemporary Families by David Cotter, Professor of Sociology at Union College

The General Social Survey[i] has been asking a set of four questions about gender ideology since the mid 1970s. These cover the relative suitability of women and men for politics, whether or not families should have a breadwinner/homemaker division of responsibilities, and whether mothers’ employment is harmful to children. From the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, the answers to each of these trended in an egalitarian direction. Then from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s this support for gender equality stalled, even reversed. Since the early 2000s, however, all have returned to an egalitarian direction – and in every case are now above their mid-1990s peak. (See Figure 1.)

The Gender Ideology Index  my colleagues Joan Hermsen, Reeve Vanneman and I use is comprised of these four questions, which have been asked most consistently in the General Social Survey since the 1970s. For each egalitarian answer a respondent gets one “point,” so that someone who answered all four questions in an egalitarian way would get four points, and someone who answered all four in a traditionalist way would get a score of zero. The index now allows us to trace almost forty years of change. As with the items that make it up, it charts a pattern of rapid change from the 1970s up to the mid-1990s, a stall, and then a resumption of the trend toward egalitarianism. See Figure 2.

Gender Ideology by Gender
Gender differences in the Gender Ideology Index are, for the most part, relatively unremarkable. For nearly all of the series men are slightly (but significantly) less egalitarian than women. This remains true.  However, it is notable that the gap has now narrowed from what was nearly its widest point in 2012 to its smallest point in 2016. In addition, most of the change in the last few years is attributable to men’s “catching up” with women’s egalitarian attitudes. See Figure 3.

Gender Ideology and Generation: More Evolution than Revolution
Further analysis reveals that much of the change happens between generations – something that is particularly true in the post-stall period where individual generations show little secular trend. The fact that the Greatest Generation is fading from the survey and being replaced by Millennials after 2000, and especially since 2012, seems to be what is driving the movement toward egalitarianism. But those large differences between generations are less pronounced among the more recent cohorts: The difference between the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers in 1977 was nearly as large as the whole change from 1977 to 2016, but the differences between Baby Boomers, GenXers, and Millennials barely as large as the overall change from 2012 to 2016. See Figure 4.


[i] The General Social Survey is a nationally representative survey of the U.S. population conducted regularly (annually or biennially) since 1972.  It is among the best sources for ongoing social science data on Americans’ attitudes about gender and a number of other issues. Yearly sample sizes in this analysis range from 904 in 2004 to 1,984 in 2006 (