Tag Archives: family

Inequality, family change, and the pandemic (interview with Joanna Pepin)

Joanna Pepin was kind enough to interview me for her family sociology class (she’s just begun a new job at the University at Buffalo). We talked about why family sociology attracted me as an inequality researcher, what’s changed in modern families, some common misperceptions, what’s new the forthcoming edition of my textbook, and what COVID-19 is likely to mean for people and their families. In 11 minutes.

I hope it helps.


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‘Start a family’ started to mean ‘have children’ more recently than you think

Or more recently than I thought, anyway.

It looks like the phrase “start a family” started to mean “have children” (after marriage) sometime in the 1930s, and didn’t catch on till the 1940s or 1950s, which happens to be the most pro-natal period in U.S. history. Here’s the Google ngrams trend for the phrase as percentage of all three-word phrases in American English:


Searching the New York Times, I found the earliest uses applied to fish (1931) and plants (1936).

Twitter reader Daniel Parmer relayed a use from the Boston Globe on 8/9/1937, in which actress Merle Oberon said, “I hope to be married within the next two years and start a family. If not, I shall adopt a baby.”

Next appearance in the NYT was 11/22/1942, in a book review in which a man marries a woman and “brings her home to start a family.” After that it was 1948, in this 5/6/1948 description of those who would become baby boom families, describing a speech by Ewan Clague, the Commissioner of Labor Statistics, who is remembered for introducing statistics on women and families into Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. From NYT:


That NYT reference is interesting because it came shortly after the first use of “start a family” in the JSTOR database that unambiguously refers to having children, in a report published by Clague’s BLS:

Trends of Employment and Labor Turn-Over: Monthly Labor Review, Vol. 63, No. 2 (AUGUST 1946): …Of the 584,000 decline in the number of full-time Federal employees between June 1, 1945 and June 1, 1946, almost 75 percent has been in the women’s group. On June 1, 1946, there were only 60 percent as many women employed full time as on June 1, 1945. Men now constitute 70 percent of the total number of full-time workers, as compared with 61 percent a year previously. Although voluntary quits among women for personal reasons, such as to join a veteran husband or to start a family, have been numerous, information on the relative importance of these reasons as compared with involuntary lay-offs is not available…

It’s interesting that, although this appears to be a pro-natal shift, insisting on children before the definition of family is met, it also may have had a work-and-family implication of leaving the labor force. Maybe it reinforced the naturalness of women dropping out of paid work when they had children, something that was soon to emerge as a key battle ground in the gender revolution.

Note: Rose Malinowski Weingartner, a student in my graduate seminar last year, wrote a paper about this concept, which helped me think about this.

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Grad Seminar: Gender, Work, and Family Syllabus

Here is the reading list for my new seminar, Gender, Work and Family. It’s a required course for grad students at U. Maryland who plan to take the comprehensive exam in GWF. The full syllabus, with assignments, etc., is here. I go back and forth on a handful of issues: breadth versus depth, country case studies versus comparative studies, books versus articles, and including my own research. I’m open to suggestions, and feel free to add your recommendations in the comments.

Anyway, feel free to use it for whatever you like. The links here will mostly hit pay walls unless you’re authenticated with a subscribing university.

January 31 – Research overviews

  • Bianchi, Suzanne M. and Melissa A. Milkie. 2010. “Work and Family Research in the First Decade of the 21st Century.” Journal of Marriage and Family 72:705-725. Link
  • Ferree, Myra Marx. 2010. “Filling the Glass: Gender Perspectives on Families.” Journal of Marriage and Family 72:420-439. Link

February 7 – Stalled progress toward equality

  • Cotter, David, Joan M. Hermsen and Reeve Vanneman. 2011. “The End of the Gender Revolution? Gender Role Attitudes from 1977 to 2008.” American Journal of Sociology 117(1):pp. 259-289. Link
  • England, Paula. 2010. “The Gender Revolution: Uneven and Stalled.” Gender & Society 24(2):149-166. Link
  • Pettit, Becky and Stephanie Ewert. 2009. “Employment Gains and Wage Declines: The Erosion of Black Women’s Relative Wages since 1980.” Demography 46(3):pp. 469-492. Link

February 14 – The persistence of gender inequality

  • Ridgeway: Framed by Gender: How Gender Inequality Persists in the Modern World.

February 21 – Work-family

  • Williams: Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter.

February 28 – Studying work-family decisions

  • Cha, YJ. 2010. “Reinforcing Separate Spheres: The Effect of Spousal Overwork on Men’s and Women’s Employment in Dual-Earner Households.” American Sociological Review, 75 (2): 303-329. Link
  • Percheski, Christine. 2008. “Opting out? Cohort differences in professional women’s employment rates from 1960 to 2005.” American Sociological Review, 73 (3): 497-517. Link
  • Read, Jen’nan G. and Sharon Oselin. 2008. “Gender and the education-employment paradox in ethnic and religious contexts: The case of Arab Americans.” American Sociological Review 73 (2): 296-313. Link
  • Read, Jen’nan Ghazal and Philip N. Cohen. 2007. “One Size Fits All? Explaining U.S.-born and Immigrant Women’s Employment across Twelve Ethnic Groups.” Social Forces 85(4):1713-34. Link

March 6 – Race, class and intersectionality

  • Furstenberg, Frank F. 2007. “The making of the black family: Race and class in qualitative studies in the twentieth century.” Annual Review of Sociology 33:429-448. Link
  • Harknett, Kristen and Arielle Kuperberg. 2011. “Education, Labor Markets and the Retreat from Marriage.” Social Forces 90(1):41-63. Link
  • Choo, Hae Y. and Myra M. Ferree. 2010. “Practicing Intersectionality in Sociological Research: A Critical Analysis of Inclusions, Interactions, and Institutions in the Study of Inequalities.” Sociological Theory 28(2):129-149. Link

March 13 – Economics and feminism

  • Hartmann, Heidi I. 1981. “The Family as the Locus of Gender, Class, and Political Struggle: The Example of Housework.” Signs 6(3):pp. 366-394. Link
  • Nelson, Julie A. “Feminism and Economics.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 9(2):131-148. Link
  • Folbre, Nancy and Julie A. Nelson. “For Love or Money – Or Both?” Journal of Economic Perspectives , Vol. 14, No. 4 (Autumn, 2000), pp. 123-140. Link


March 27 – Housework studies

  • West, Candace and Don H. Zimmerman. 1987. “Doing Gender.” Gender & Society 1(2):125-151. Link
  • Sayer, Liana C. 2005. “Gender, time and inequality: Trends in women’s and men’s paid work, unpaid work and free time.” Social Forces 84(1):285-303. Link
  • Sayer, Liana C. and Leigh Fine. 2011. “Racial-Ethnic Differences in U.S. Married Women’s and Men’s Housework.” Social Indicators Research 101(2):259-265. Link
  • Gupta, Sanjiv. 2007. “Autonomy, Dependence, or Display? The Relationship Between Married Women’s Earnings and Housework.” Journal of Marriage and Family 69(2):399-417. Link

April 3 – The gender pay gap

  • O’Neill J. 2003. “The Gender Gap in Wages, circa 2000.” American Economic Review 93(2)309-314. Link
  • Budig, Michelle and Melissa Hodges. 2010. “Differences in Disadvantage: Variation in the Motherhood Penalty across White Women’s Earnings Distribution.” American Sociological Review 75(5): 705-728. Link
  • Cohen, Philip N. and Matt L. Huffman. 2003. “Individuals, Jobs, and Labor Markets: The Devaluation of Women’s Work.” American Sociological Review 68(3):443-63. Link
  • Blau, Francine D. and Lawrence M. Kahn. 2007. “The gender pay gap: Have women gone as far as they can?” Academy of Management Perspectives 21(1):7-23.

April 10 – Occupational segregation

  • Cartwright, Bliss, PR Edwards, and Q Wang. 2011. “Job and industry gender segregation: NAICS categories and EEO-1 job groups.” Monthly Labor Review 134(11):37-50. Link
  • Charles, Maria and Karen Bradley. 2002. “Equal but Separate? A Cross-National Study of Sex Segregation in Higher Education.” American Sociological Review 67(4):573-599. Link
  • Matt L. Huffman, Philip N. Cohen and Jessica Pearlman. 2010. “Engendering Change: Organizational Dynamics and Workplace Gender Segregation, 1975-2005.” Administrative Science Quarterly 55(2):255-277. Link

April 17 – Gender, family and women’s empowerment in Asia

  • Desai, Sonalde and Lester Andrist. 2010. “Gender Scripts and Age at Marriage in India.” Demography 47(3):667-687. Link
  • Rammohan, Anu and Meliyanni Johar. 2009. “The Determinants of Married Women’s Autonomy in Indonesia.” Feminist Economics 15(4):31-55. Link
  • Cohen, Philip N. and Wang Feng. 2009. “The Market and Gender Pay Equity: Have Chinese Reforms Narrowed the Gap?” Pp. 37-53 in Creating Wealth and Poverty in Post-Socialist China, Deborah S. Davis and Wang Feng (eds.). Palo Alto: Stanford University Press. Link

April 24 – Masculinity and fathering

  • Connell R.W. and J.W. Messerschmidt JW. 2005. “Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept.” Gender & Society 19(6):829-859. Link
  • Parrenas, Rhacel S. 2008. “Transnational fathering: Gendered conflicts, distant disciplining and emotional gaps.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 34(7):1057-1072. Link
  • Milkie, Melissa A., Kendig, SM, Nomaguchi, KM and Denny, KE. “Time with Children, Children’s Well-Being, and Work-Family Balance among Employed Parents.” Journal of Marriage and Family 72(5):1329-1343. Link

May 1 – Generational change in work-family perspectives

  • Gerson: The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family.

May 8 – State policy

  • Esping-Andersen: The Incomplete Revolution: Adapting to Women’s New Roles. Polity.


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2010’s top 10

The blog is on vacation till January.

With 45,000 hits last year, WordPress says the state of the blog is “wow.” (They probably say that to all the paying customers…).

Just time for a look back at the most popular posts on Family Inequality from 2010.

1. Gay prom controversy (1980-2010)

2. The bathroom icon has no clothes

3. Latina teen suicide

4. Recession, resilience, divorce

5. Behind the gendered workplace

6. All work and no pay

7. Lifestyles of the 4x-poverty set

8. Color gender by the numbers

9. Poverty, single mothers and race/ethnicity

10. Police your teens, or else?

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