Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Increasing Resource Inequality among Families in Modern Societies: The Mechanisms of Growing Educational Homogamy, Changes in the Division of Work in the Family and the Decline of the Male Breadwinner Model

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Increasing Resource Inequality among Families in Modern Societies: The Mechanisms of Growing Educational Homogamy, Changes in the Division of Work in the Family and the Decline of the Male Breadwinner Model

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Theories of social inequality, whether influenced by Durkheim, Marx or Weber, have traditionally defined social class as a market relationship, with the family as the key unit of social stratification. This approach regards conjugal families not only as collective entities in which family members share the rewards gained by the family head through relationships within labour markets and production units, but also as primary agents of socialization and institutions channelling the social and economic inheritance that transmits privilege as well as power and prestige to the next generation (Coser, 1973). It is therefore not surprising that until the early 1980s, intra- and intergenerational social mobility studies (e.g., Goldthorpe, 1980) as well as status attainment research (e.g., Blau and Duncan, 1967; Sewell and Hauser, 1975) regarded the variation in the social position of male family heads as the key dependent variable to be explained. Measuring the effects of the father's education and occupation on his son's education and occupational attainment dominated stratification research for many years. When these social mobility models were extended to married women, it was not women's own resources that were studied, but the education and occupation of women's fathers that were compared with those of their husbands (Goldthorpe, 1983, 1984; Handl, Mayer and Müller, 1977).

With the increases in women's educational participation (Erikson and Jonsson, 1996, Sha vit and Blossfeld, 1993) and married women's paid employment (Blossfeld and Hakim, 1997, Blossfeld and Drobniè 2001), the share of family income contributed by wives rose steadily in modern societies, and criticism of the pervasive 'male bias' in the stratification literature became stronger (e.g., S0rensen and McLanahan, 1987). A growing stream of research suggested that empirical studies should treat women just like men, and that individuals and not families should be the units of analysis in inequality studies. Subsequently, the focus of empirical analyses shifted gradually from traditional stratification research to labour market research and from household heads to individual women and men in the marketplace while largely ignoring their marriage patterns and their family or household contexts, their incomesharing within the family and their social security or other benefits enjoyed through family relationships.

A fundamental drawback of this individualistic line of thought is that ignoring marriage patterns and f amilial relationships or not taking them explicitly into account implies that men and women are all alike, that there are no differences between families and households, and that employment decisions and risks within the family are based on gender-free considerations. A major conceptual limitation of individualistic approaches to the study of social inequality seems to be their failure to acknowledge the degree to which the lives of men and women are linked via marriage and family relationships (Blossfeld and Drobniè 2001). In this article, we shall consider how changes in marriage patterns as well as the interdependencies of couples' careers and changes therein impact on social inequality in modern societies. We shall do this by drawing on the empirical results of several international comparative research projects.1 In particular, we will focus on the development of couples' educational resources and their labour market integration. Both kinds of resources have proven to be major determinants of social inequalities in Europe and Northern America. This focus on changes in union formation, the class-specific changes in die division of work within households and the socially selective increases in employment insecurity among mid-life men allows us to study how unequal access to resources has been created, exacerbated, reduced, modified or perpetuated by families.

INCREASING INEQUALITIES BETWEEN FAMILIES

The Effect of Educational Expansion and Changes in Educational Homogamy

Educational expansion has increased participation in higher education dramatically in recent decades and more so for women than for men (Mare, 1981; Blossfeld and Sha vit, 1993; Erikson and Jonsson, 1996). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.