Syllabus supplements for fall family sociology

Last year I posted a list of blog pieces by subject, to help people teaching family courses generate ideas and discussion. Now my book is done and some of that material is in there. If you use the book for your class, we’ll give you all kinds of awesome teaching materials. But if you’re not using it (yet), here’s another list of blog posts to supplement your course. I hope this is useful whether you’re assigning the book or not, and even if you’re teaching something besides a family course.

This is organized according to my table of contents. Please let me know what works and what doesn’t, and offer your additional suggestions in the comments.

1. Introduction

  • What current demographic facts do you need to know? These 22 demographic data points are a good place to start. What else is necessary knowledge just to get through the day without being grossly misled or misinformed?
  • High marks for Census: Describes the cultural shift at the Census Bureau that followed from Obama’s election and the decision to start counting gay and lesbian married couples. Also, a nice video they made explaining how a small error in a large population (mis-marking the sex box) can dramatically distort the number of a small population within it (same-sex couples).
  • Millennial, save thyself: Are millennials in trouble because their ties to marriage, work, and religion are weak? It’s “kids these days” all over again. With some simple data analysis and trends.

2. History

3. Race, ethnicity, and immigration

  • Black is not a color: Black and White are social, not biological, classifications. So why do we treat the words as if they were just colors?
  • Immigrant health paradox update: What can we learn from the surprisingly low infant morality rates of immigrants? Maybe healthier people migrate, but after a generation (or less) in the U.S., their advantage appears to erode.
  • The world that Sabta made: My grandmother lived from 1913 to 2009, and came to the U.S. from Poland in 1921, the youngest passenger on the S.S. Ryndam. Hers is one of the great stories of the century, leaving a mark that goes well beyond her 50+ great-grandchildren.

4. Social class

5. Gender

6. Sexuality

7. Love and romantic relationships

  • Is dating still dead? The death of dating is now 50 years old, and its been eulogized so many times that its feelings are starting to get hurt.
  • Online dating: efficiency, inequality, and anxiety: I’m skeptical about efficiency, and concerned about inequality, as more dating moves online. Some of the numbers I use in this post are already dated, but this could be good for a debate about dating rules and preferences.
  • Is the price of sex too damn low? To hear some researchers tell it in a recent YouTube video, women in general — and feminism in particular — have ruined not only sex, but society itself. The theory is wrong. Also, they’re insanely sexist.

8. Marriage and cohabitation

9. Families and children

10. Divorce, remarriage, and blended families

11. Work and families

12. Family violence and abuse

13. The future of the family

  • Tripping on tipping points: Minority births are now the majority. Is this a tipping point, a milestone, or a watershed? On the importance of accurately representing trends.
  • Dependency futures: An NPR story (linked here) on retirement prompts a look at how US demographic trends may be moving toward a future with more old-age dependency.
  • Marriage is declining globally: Can you say that? Yes, you can say that. But will it continue? We should be careful with predictions, but lots of demographic evidence suggests it will.

Teaching family inequality: Some posts by subject

Getting started with a new semester.

As I’m preparing my undergraduate Families and Society course, I’m pulling together some short readings for discussions, including posts from this blog. Here are some you might find helpful for your own teaching, organized according to the chapters of my forthcoming textbook, The Family: Diversity, Inequality and Society Change.


  • Why don’t parents name their daughters Mary anymore? Sociology helps explain how things that seem intimate, like a baby’s name, reflect broader social patterns and trends. In the case of names, individuality is increasingly valued and traditional names suddenly seem boring.
  • Good woman child language: Basic concepts of male and female, good and bad, are linguistically related to gender and family relationships. For example, the word for “good” in Chinese is a combination of the words for “woman” and “child,” and the word for “man” is made from “field” plus “strength.”
  • Take my words for it: homogamy and heterogamy: What we call things matters. As marriage people  people of the same sex becomes legal in more and more places, does it matter how we refer to different forms of marriage?



Social class


  1. 12 minutes in segregationland. How much gender division of labor can you spot in 12 minutes at the train station? A statistical photo essay.
  2. Tangled up in Disney’s dimorphism. What does it mean when they exaggerate the differences between men’s and women’s bodies?
  3. What if women were in charge? When women get management jobs, some things change. But it hasn’t been enough to complete the push toward gender equality.


Love and romantic relationships

Cohabitation and marriage

Families and children

Divorce and remarriage

Work and families

Violence and abuse

Wow, looking back at all these posts, I feel as if I better have written a book by now. Just one more chapter to go! Your feedback is always welcome, whether you are a teacher using these posts in class or just reading.

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.

Read it and weep : Demography I syllabus

Never one to wait till the last minute, I completed the syllabus for my graduate seminar with more than 12 hours to spare.

At UNC the sociology department offers a two-seminar series for students starting out with a concentration in demography, which is also standard for predoctoral trainees at the Carolina Population Center. The course has passed around the department, offering the best of our different perspectives — as well as the risk of inertia. I overhauled it quite a bit, but it still owes lots to Lisa Pearce and Anthony Perez, who taught it most recently.

Took me a long time. But what a moment! Looking down the list of two books and 55 other required or optional readings over 13 weeks, I think: how much would you know if you really read all that? And also: there’s probably no one in the world (not even me) who’s read this combination of things before. Etc.

Here’s a teaser: one graph I made for illustrating population growth. It replicates one John Bongaarts made in 1975, showing where the countries of the world lie on the birth-rate / death-rate axis. Bottom line: when birth rates are higher, population grows. The other 54+ readings are details…

I was happy to add a new book this year: Mara Hvistendahl’s Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. I still plan to post a review here, but let me just say it’s a great example of accessible science writing about demography. It’s well-documented and thorough but also compelling to read and does a great job motivating the issue. (Sure, she overreaches, too. That’s OK.)

Here’s the syllabus; some of the links to the readings will run into pay walls if you’re off campus. I will be updating it with the assignments over the semester — fell free to play along at home…

I hope everyone who has one, has a good fall semester.