gender: work

‘Tis the season where women’s workloads expand because they are held disproportionately responsible for the cleaning, decorating, cooking, card sending, gift buying, and gift wrapping involved with the holidays (e.g., you need 12 mums and 6 arms to make it all happen).

In light of that, this “survival tip” from Ace Hardware encouraging men to buy things for themselves is especially obnoxious.  Thanks to Martha J. for sending it to us!


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Sociologists Arlie Hochschild and Anne Machung used “the second shift” to refer to the responsibilities of childcare and housework borne disproportionately by women, in addition to their paid labor.

A student in Will LaSuer’s class at the University of Akron noticed that a 5-Hour Energy ad explicitly references this idea of a second shift for women. A harried mom with an armful of groceries enters a home full of yelling kids. She talks about getting home from her first job to start her second job, and how worn out this can make her:

Of course, the ad doesn’t actually critique this arrangement or the organization of household duties. The second shift is taken for granted, an unavoidable burden. Consumption provides the answer: buy a product that gives you more energy so you can tackle that second job when you get home. Problem solved!

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

The Washington Post has a post up by Dylan Matthews that looks at the U.S. gender wage gap over time. It has several charts that illustrate trends in pay very clearly. Here’s a breakdown of median income (in constant 2010 dollars) by gender and race/ethnicity, for all workers, both full- and part-time:

The gap remains for full-time, year-round workers, too. Women have gained ground, but within every racial/ethnic category, women’s median income is lower than men’s and every other group earns significantly less than Asian and White men. However, there’s a clear racial earnings hierarchy visible in the chart as well, which isn’t getting nearly the attention that the gender wage gap is:

Moreover, the income bump received from earning a college degree is still higher for men than for women:

There are additional charts further breaking down differences in pay among men and women in the original post. As Matthews argues, and as Philip Cohen has posted about here at Soc Images, the data just don’t support the “impending female economic dominance” narrative that has become popular recently.

The National Partnership for Women & Families has posted an interactive map that displays the gender pay gap in each state and in the Congressional districts within the state. It uses Census Bureau data comparing full-time, year-round workers (that is, the scenario in which we’d expect women’s income to be closest to men’s). When you click on any state, it brings up information about it. For instance, in Nevada, women make 85% of what men do. Women working full-time have a median income of $35,484, while men’s median income is $41,803. The gap is smallest in the 1st and 3rd districts (both including parts of the greater Vegas metro area), but significantly larger in District 2, which covers the rest of the state, much of it rural:

Here are the 10 U.S. Congressional districts with the largest gender gap in median pay:

They don’t list the state or districts with the smallest gap. Just from casually and non-systematically clicking around, the state with the most parity that I found was in Washington D.C., where women make 90% as much as men. Let us know in the comments if you find anywhere with an even smaller gap.

Generally speaking, gender equality in the U.S. and other Western countries has involved women moving into men’s spheres.  We have not seen an equivalent migration of men into women’s spheres.  Accordingly, while women have integrated many male occupations (they are now, for example, 50% or more of law and medical students), many female-dominated ones remain heavily female.

This is perhaps nowhere more true than in early childhood education.  In a story about male childcare workers at Organizations, Occupations and Work, Lata Murti reports that only 5% of child care workers and 3% of pre-school teachers are male.  Numbers are also low in other Western countries.  In Germany, the average is 3.5% (and this includes all employees of child care centers, including custodians).

So, Spiegel Online reports, Germany has decided to try to do something about it.  Aiming to increase the percentage of men in child care to 20%, the government is spending 13 million Euros on a “More Men in Early Childhood Education and Care” program.

The state isn’t doing this, though, solely out of a passion for gender equality or a soft place in their heart for men holding babies.  They’re doing it because Germany has promised that there will be a spot in a day care center for all children when they turn one year old.  To fulfill this promise, they need more day care workers badly; recruiting men means that that other half of the population might fill out the profession.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

In doing research for a book I may write about voluntary childnessness, I came across a telling graphic from the Pew Research Center.  First, note that the percent of women age 40-44 without a biological child has almost doubled since the late ’70s.  Today about one-in-five such women (18%) have never given birth:

The percent of women is even higher among women with professional degrees (a master’s or equivalent and higher).  One-in-four women with a master’s degree, and nearly that many women with PhDs, have no biological children by ages 40-44.

Here’s where the really telling graph comes in.  Though women with higher levels of education are less likely to have biological children than other types of women, the trend  of increasing childlessness shown above doesn’t apply to them.  In fact, women with master’s and PhDs in the most recent data are more likely to have children than their counterparts 14 years ago.  In the first half of the 1990s, nearly one-in-three women with professional degrees did not have biological children; today it’s one-in-four. Childbearing among the most educated women, then, bucks the trend. It has gone up.

The data probably reflect greater endorsement of the idea that a woman can, or should be able to, balance both a career and a family, as well as the rise of policies that make that possible.  University of Florida sociologist Tanya Koropeckyj-Cox, who’s studied this stuff, says as much.  It may be hard to imagine now, but there was a time when having children would destroy a woman’s always-already fragile career; as much as we may love or hate the “mommy track,” at least today there is one.  Koropeckyj-Cox also suggests that women with higher incomes may have greater access to infertility treatments, making overcoming health problems or delayed childbearing more possible for them than it is among women with less education.

In any case, the data suggests an interesting story about gender, childbearing, educational achievement, and historical change.  I’d be happy to hear more interpretation in the comments.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Cross-posted at Family Inequality.

It is great to acknowledge and celebrate the increase in father involvement in parenting. But it is not helpful to exaggerate the trend and link it to the myth-making about looming female dominance. Yesterday’s feature in the Sunday New York Times does just that, and reminds me that I meant to offer a quick debunking of Hanna Rosin’s TED talk.

The story is headlined “Just Wait Till Your Mother Gets Home.” The picture shows a group of dads with their kids, as if representing what one calls “the new normal.” Careful inspection of the caption reveals it is a “daddy and me” music class, so we should not be surprised to see a lot of dads with their kids.

The article also makes use of a New Yorker cover, which captures a certain gestalt — it’s a funny exaggeration — but should not be confused with an empirical description of the gender distribution of parents and playgrounds:

Naturally, the story is in the Style section, so close reading of the empirical support is perhaps a fool’s errand. However, I could not help noticing that the only two statistics in the story were either misleading or simply inaccurate. In the category of misleading, was this:

In the last decade, though, the number of men who have left the work force entirely to raise children has more than doubled, to 176,000, according to recent United States census data. Expanding that to include men who maintain freelance or part-time jobs but serve as the primary caretaker of children under 15 while their wife works, the number is around 626,000, according to calculations the census bureau compiled for this article.

The Census Bureau has for years employed a very rigid definition of stay-at-home dads, which only counts those who are out of the labor force for an entire year for reasons of “taking care of home and family.” This may seem an overly strict definition and an undercount, but if you simply counted any man with no job but with children as a stay-at-home dad, you risk counting any father who lost a job as stay-at-home. (A former student of mine, Beth Latshaw, now at Appalachian State University, has explored this issue and published her results here in the journal Fathering.)

In any event, those look like big numbers, but one should always be wary of raw numbers in the news. In fact, when you look at the trend as published by the Census Bureau, you see that the proportion of married couple families in which the father meets the stay-at-home criteria has doubled: from 0.4% in 2000 to 0.8% today. The larger estimate which includes fathers working part-time comes out to 2.8% of married couple families with children under 15. The father who used the phrase “the new normal” in the story was presumably not speaking statistically.

(Source: My calculations from Census Bureau numbers [.xls file]. Includes only married-couple families with children under age 15.)


That’s the misleading number. The inaccurate number is here:

About 40 percent of women now make more than their husbands, the bureau’s statistics show, and that may be only the beginning of a seismic power shift, if new books like “The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love, And Family,” by Liza Mundy, and “The End of Men: And the Rise of Women,” by Hanna Rosin, are to be believed.

I guess in these troubled times for the newspaper business it might be acceptable to report X and Y statistic “if so-and-so is to be believed.” But it is a shame to do so when the public is paying the salary of people who have already debunked the numbers in question. Just the other day, I wrote about that very statistic: “Really? No. I don’t know why this keeps going around.” Using freely available tables (see the post), I calculated that a reasonable estimate of the higher-earning-wife share is 21%. In fact, on this point Liza Mundy and Hanna Rosin and are not to be believed.

(Source: My graph from Census Bureau numbers.)


TED: Misinformation Frequently Spread

There is a TED talk featuring Hanna Rosin from the end of 2010, and I finally got around to watching it. Without doing a formal calculation, I would say that “most” of the statistics she uses in this talk are either wrong or misinterpreted to exaggerate the looming approach of female dominance. For example, she says that the majority of “managers” are now women, but the image on the slide which flashes by briefly refers to “managers and professionals.” Professionals includes nurses and elementary school teachers. Among managers themselves, women do represent a growing share (although not a majority, and the growth has slowed considerably), but they remain heavily segregated as I have shown here.

Rosin further reports that “young women” are earning more than “young men.” This statistic, which has been going around for a few years now, in fact refers to single, child-free women under age 30 and living in metropolitan areas. That is an interesting statistic, but used in this way is simply a distortion. (See this post for a more thorough discussion, with links.)

Rosin also claims that “70% of fertility clinic patients” prefer to have a female birth. In her own article in the Atlantic, Rosin reports a similar number for one (expensive, rare) method of sex selection only (with no source offered) — but of course the vast majority of fertility clinic patients are not using sex selection techniques. In fact, in her own article she writes, “Polling data on American sex preference is sparse, and does not show a clear preference for girls.”

Finally, I don’t think I need to offer statistics to address such claims as women are “taking control of everything”and “starting to dominate” among “doctors, lawyers, bankers, accountants.” These are just made up. Congress is 17% female.

Philip N. Cohen is a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park, and writes the blog Family Inequality. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

The recent Atlantic article by Anne-Marie Slaughter revived an ongoing conversation about women’s efforts to balance work and family in their lives.  Unfortunately, new data from the Pew Research Center suggests that striking a happy balance is increasingly out of reach.  This is because the value women place on both parenting well and having a successful career is growing.  In other words, women’s expectations are rising.

Interestingly, men’s expectations are rising, too, increasing the degree to which their desires might conflict, but to a somewhat lesser degree.

Let’s look at the data.

Young women between 18 and 34 are more likely to say that a successful career is “very” or “one of the most important things” in their life last year, compared to 1997.  The percentage has gone up 10 percentage points for women, while it went up only one point for men.

Young women are also more likely to say that being a good parent is “one of the most important things.”  Up a whopping 17 percentage points since 1997. This desire has risen significantly for men, too; 47% of men now say that parenting is very important, compared to 39% in 1997.

Since 1997, then, men have revised their expectations for parenting up, while their interest in work has remained more or less steady.  Women have raised their expectations for both and, generally, report higher life expectations than men.  That is, men are less likely than women to be interested in either a family or a career.

It will be interesting to see how public policy responds to these raised expectations, if at all. The U.S. is notoriously stingy when it comes to helping families balance these competing pressures, as this post on paid parental leave illustrates.  The time bind, though, is tightening and something will have to give.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.