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Thread: Working Moms and Gender Inequality

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    Working Moms and Gender Inequality

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/02/business/02work.html

    March 2, 2006
    Stretched to Limit, Women Stall March to Work
    By EDUARDO PORTER
    For four decades, the number of women entering the workplace grew at a blistering pace, fostering a powerful cultural and economic transformation of American society. But since the mid-1990's, the growth in the percentage of adult women working outside the home has stalled, even slipping somewhat in the last five years and leaving it at a rate well below that of men.

    While the change has been under way for a while, it was initially viewed by many experts as simply a pause in the longer-term movement of women into the work force. But now, social scientists are engaged in a heated debate over whether the gender revolution at work may be over.

    Is this shift evidence for the popular notion that many mothers are again deciding that they prefer to stay at home and take care of their children?

    Maybe, but many researchers are coming to a different conclusion: women are not choosing to stay out of the labor force because of a change in attitudes, they say. Rather, the broad reconfiguration of women's lives that allowed most of them to pursue jobs outside the home appears to be hitting some serious limits.

    Since the 1960's, tens of millions of women rejiggered bits of their lives, extracting more time to accommodate jobs and careers from every nook and cranny of the day. They married later and had fewer children. They turned to labor-saving machines and paid others to help handle household work; they persuaded the men in their lives to do more chores.

    At the peak in 2000, some 77 percent of women in the prime ages of 25 to 54 were in the work force.

    Further changes, though, have been proving harder to achieve, stretching the daily challenge facing many mothers at nearly all income levels toward a breaking point.

    "What happened on the road to gender equality?" said Suzanne M. Bianchi, a sociologist at the University of Maryland. "A lot of work happened."


    Consider Cathie Watson-Short, 37, a former business development executive at high-technology companies in Silicon Valley. She pines to go back to work, but has not figured out how to mesh work with caring for her three daughters.

    "Most of us thought we would work and have kids, at least that was what we were brought up thinking we would do — no problem," Ms. Watson-Short said. "But really we were kind of duped. None of us realized how hard it is."

    Professor Bianchi, who studies time-use surveys done by the Census Bureau and others, has concluded that contrary to popular belief, the broad movement of women into the paid labor force did not come at the expense of their children. Not only did fathers spend more time with children, but working mothers, she found, spent an average of 12 hours a week on child care in 2003, an hour more than stay-at-home mothers did in 1975.

    Instead, mothers with children at home gained the time for outside work by taking it from other parts of their day. They also worked more over all. Professor Bianchi found that employed mothers, on average, worked at home and on the job a total of 15 hours more a week and slept 3.6 fewer hours than those who were not employed.

    "Perhaps time has been compressed as far as it will go," she suggested. "Kids take time, and work takes time. The conflicts didn't go away."

    Indeed, the research suggests that women may have already hit a wall in the amount of work that they can pack into a week. From 1965 to 1995, Professor Bianchi found, the average time mothers spent doing paid work jumped to almost 26 hours a week from 9 hours. The time spent on housework fell commensurately, to 19 hours from 32.

    Then the trend stalled. From 1995 to 2003, mothers, on average, spent about the same amount of time on household chores, but their work outside the home fell by almost four hours a week.

    "Looking toward the future," said Francine D. Blau, a professor of economics at Cornell University, "one can question how much further increases in women's participation can be had without more reallocation of household work."

    This is having broad repercussions for the economy. Today, about 75 percent of women 25 to 54 years old are either working or actively seeking a job, up from around 40 percent in the late 1950's. That expansion helped fuel economic growth for decades.

    But the previous trend flattened in the early 1990's. And since 2000, the participation rate for women has declined somewhat; it remains far below the 90 percent rate for men in the same age range.

    (More)
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    There is one big exception to the trend: while the rate of labor participation leveled off for most groups of women, the percentage of single mothers in the work force jumped to more than 75 percent from 63 percent. That of high school dropouts rose to 53 percent from 48 percent.

    Economists say that these women were pushed into work with the help of changes in government policy: the expansion of the earned-income tax credit and the overhaul of welfare in the mid-1990's, which replaced long-term entitlements with temporary aid.

    To be sure, mothers' overcrowded lives have not been the only factor limiting their roles in the work force. The decline in participation rates for most groups of women since the recession of 2001 at least partly reflects an overall slowdown in hiring, which affected men and women roughly equally.

    "The main reason for women's declining labor-force participation rates over the last four years was the weakness of the labor market," said Heather Boushey, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal research institute in Washington. "Women did not opt out of the labor force because of the kids."

    But even if the recent decline was driven more by economic factors, other experts note that the leveling off began well before the economic slump a few year ago. And whatever the mixture of causes, the changing pace of women's participation in the work force has recently risen to the top of the agenda among scholars and policy makers.

    A report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, presented to Congress in February, contended that the slowdown in the rate of women moving into the workplace, was weighing on the nation's potential for economic growth.

    "The new factor at play," the report said, "is the change in the trend in the female participation rate, which has edged down on balance since 2000 after having risen for five decades."

    Claudia Goldin, an economics professor at Harvard University, said in a keynote speech to the annual meeting of the American Economic Association in Boston in January that the trend across nearly all groups of women had "led many to wonder if a 'natural rate' of labor force participation has been reached."

    A broad set of social and economic forces pushed women into the work force. From the 1960's onward, women flooded into higher education and began to marry later.

    Professor Goldin said that a typical female college graduate born in the mid-1960's married at 26, three years later than the typical female college graduate born in the early 1950's.

    This alone had large-scale implications for women's ability to work. Many families delayed the arrival of their first child. Today, only about 43 percent of women 25 to 29 have children under 6, compared with about 71 percent of women in that group in the 1960's.

    Chinhui Juhn, an economics professor at the University of Houston, pointed out that women in their mid-to-late 20's accounted for most of the increase in work force participation from 1970 onward. But now, she said, "the increase in participation of women in their prime child-bearing years is largely over."

    Women's participation in the labor force is being restrained by a side effect of delayed motherhood: a jump in 30-something mothers with toddlers.

    "The childbirth effects are coming later," said Janice Madden, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

    By 2004, about 37 percent of women ages 33 to 37 had children under 6, compared with 28 percent in 1979.

    At midcareer, these women had to deal with more child care chores. "There have been a lot more household responsibilities in this group," Professor Goldin, the Harvard economist, said. "The fact that their participation rate has not declined much is what is surprising — not that there is a plateau."

    Most women, even those with young children, need to work. Many more want to. Ms. Watson-Short, the former California executive who is now a mother of three, said that her stay-at-home-mom friends, like her, felt blindsided by the demands of motherhood.

    "They had a totally different idea of where they would be," Ms. Watson-Short said. "They thought they would be in the workplace and have someone help them raise the kids."


    But those who kept working are also torn. Catherine Stallings, 34, returned to her job in the communications department of New York University's medical center last month because she could not afford not to. Dealing with work and her 5-month-old daughter, Riley, has been stressful for her and her husband, the marketing director of a sports magazine.

    "Usually, we are so tired we pass out around 10 or so," Ms. Stallings said. "And my job is not a career-track job. If I were climbing the ladder, it would be a no-win situation."

    Some economists argue that it is premature to conclude that the gender revolution in the workplace has reached its limit.

    Yet for the participation rates of women to rise significantly, they agree, mothers may have to give up more of the household burden.

    Professor Blau of Cornell noted that in Scandinavian countries, where laws provide for more generous parental leave and subsidize day care, women have higher rates of labor participation than in the United States.

    Ms. Watson-Short, whose husband is a patent lawyer, expects to go back to some sort of paid work but sees a full-time job as well off in the future. Making the transition back into the work force, even through part-time jobs, will not be as easy as she and her contemporaries once hoped.

    "We got equality at work," Ms. Watson-Short said. "We really didn't get equality at home."
    Brother, you can believe in stones as long as you do not hurl them at me. Wafa Sultan

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    Quote Originally Posted by simone

    Professor Blau of Cornell noted that in Scandinavian countries, where laws provide for more generous parental leave and subsidize day care, women have higher rates of labor participation than in the United States.

    Ms. Watson-Short, whose husband is a patent lawyer, expects to go back to some sort of paid work but sees a full-time job as well off in the future. Making the transition back into the work force, even through part-time jobs, will not be as easy as she and her contemporaries once hoped.

    "We got equality at work," Ms. Watson-Short said. "We really didn't get equality at home."
    Just review the horrors of sky-high taxes and the demise of traditional marriage and families in Scandinavia:

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Conten...zypwj.asp?pg=1
    “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” - Robert Jastrow

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    Quote Originally Posted by Easyrider
    Just review the horrors of sky-high taxes and the demise of traditional marriage and families in Scandinavia:

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Conten...zypwj.asp?pg=1
    Definite case of post hoc ergo proctor hoc in that article. I'd take scandinavian tax levels in exchange for scandinavian levels of public spending on healthcare and education.

    I also don't see how you can complain about other countries' marriage stats when the divorce rate in the US runs at near 50%, and higher in the supposedly more Christian south. The marriage ceremony as the determiner of whether people are married is a pretty recent phenomenon, there is a reason the ceremony is referred to as a "solemnisation".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Easyrider
    Just review the horrors of sky-high taxes and the demise of traditional marriage and families in Scandinavia:

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Conten...zypwj.asp?pg=1
    Just for the record, EZ, oh great one of enormous emptiness, I did a comparison of the fates and marriages of my two family connections to Sweden.

    In my father's family, he was the only child to migrate to America. All of the marriages are utterly solid and devoted and stable. My Swedish cousins are outstanding, productive citizens. This branch of the family is Atheistic.

    In my mother's family, everyone migrated to America, they were devoted Christians. Alcoholism, time spent in jails and prisons, broken marriages, unhappiness, even so a number of my cousins on this side of the family have managed to overcome their Christianity and establish successful lives and marriages.

    So, Ptah to your woefully ignorant understanding of the DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SWEDISH CULTURE AND AMERICAN CULTURE. Sorry, Old Boy, your um, er, is showing.
    Brother, you can believe in stones as long as you do not hurl them at me. Wafa Sultan

    “War is an American way to teach geography,” British soldier

    War is sweet to those who have not tasted it, but the experienced man trembles exceedingly at heart on its approach. – Pindar

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    From the Wall Street Journal

    A Dying Nation's Schizophrenia
    By SILVANA KOCH-MEHRIN
    May 8, 2006
    Here's good news for everyone who never liked Germans in the first place: We're dying out. With a birth rate of only 1.3 children per woman, way below the "replacement level" of 2.1, in only 12 generations there won't be any Germans left.

    But long before the last of the Germans wanders the empty streets of Berlin, the country will already feel the demographic pain. Its expensive social welfare system is based on a fictional generation contract. In theory, the young and the able are supposed to finance with their work the old and disabled. However, if there are fewer contributors, the system is bound to break down.

    The country has finally begun to face this hard truth. But the current passionate debate about how to raise the birth rate reveals a rather conservative streak in Germany's society. The focus is solely on why women fail to deliver the next generation of tax payers. There is usually no mention at all of the (lacking) contribution from men. Luckily for them, they are not accused of being childless. In 21st century Germany, childbearing has become a women-exclusive topic.

    It is true that about a quarter of German women stay childless and the number is rising. Among university graduates the rate is 40%. But looking at the statistics of childless men, we find some interesting -- and in discussions often suppressed -- figures: They outnumber childless women. So, whose problem is it really?

    The clash between traditionalism and modernity has not yet really been resolved in Germany and it often leads to the schizophrenic situation that women are criticized no matter what they do. A working mother is still regarded as a lousy mom, a "Rabenmutter," a term for which there is no equivalence in other languages. Many Germans still believe that without the mother's full-time, around-the-clock attention, the child will be psychologically damaged.

    At the same time, though, if women decide against a career and stay at home for their families, they receive no respect from society either. Not to mention women who pursue a career without having children or neither work nor have children. They are even further down the social ladder.

    Compare this to the situation in neighboring France, for example, where a working mother receives society's full recognition -- and support. It is not unusual but normal for children to attend day-care centers from very early on and that mothers return to work soon after giving birth.

    In Germany, there is no such country-wide day-care infrastructure. The few available places are often too expensive for the average family. In addition, labor laws are inflexible and the tax system sets incentives for only one partner, usually the man, to work. As a consequence, the birth rate is falling. Whereas Germany concentrates on a policy more appropriate for the traditional one-income-family from the '50s, France focuses on a policy more appropriate for the modern family. The effect in France: The birth-rate is rising.

    Society's prejudices are also reproduced in the country's political landscape. With Angela Merkel, Germany has its first female leader, a fact that might point to progress. But she owes much of her successes to the fact that she was constantly underestimated, both within her party and by the political opponents. Most importantly, she appeared rather unfeminine, almost androgyne, and thus not a threat to Germany's male political class. When her role as a woman was looked at, it was often to point out that she was childless, a fact that certainly didn't help her election campaign. That her opponent, Gerhard Schröder, was in his fourth marriage and still without children of his own was not held against him -- if it was mentioned at all. Only now, that Ms. Merkel has been elected, does she seem to feel comfortable enough to show her feminine side as well.

    The difference to Ségolène Royal, France's female contender to the presidency, couldn't be greater. In March, 70% of the population approved of her candidacy. The elegant and feminine Ms. Royal, an unmarried mother of four children, would be hardly suitable for a public office in Germany. Consider the fact that Ms. Merkel felt it necessary to marry her partner of many years just shortly before the elections.

    Now in power, the chancellor seems to be determined to change the fate of working women. Last week, the coalition government agreed on so-called "Elterngeld," or parental money, an allowance for parents who take time off to look after their newborns. There's one hitch, though: It will only be paid for the maximum period of 14 months if both partners, i.e. also the father, take time off. Otherwise, the money will be granted only for 12 months. This incentive for fathers to get more involved in family affairs as well is certainly welcome. But it will probably still lead to a situation where it is the mother who will have to make the biggest career sacrifices.

    Back in the Stone Age, the concept was simple: The woman stayed in the cave while the men went hunting. In today's Germany, the roles society has assigned to men and women are only slightly more sophisticated. In the age of globalization, though, we need to update this sclerotic cliché.

    Ms. Koch-Mehrin, deputy head of the liberal group in the European Parliament, is the mother of two daughters.
    Brother, you can believe in stones as long as you do not hurl them at me. Wafa Sultan

    “War is an American way to teach geography,” British soldier

    War is sweet to those who have not tasted it, but the experienced man trembles exceedingly at heart on its approach. – Pindar

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