Work-Family life courses: where do inequalities exist?

New DIAL Working Paper from Equal Lives’ Anette Fasang examines gender and race inequalities facing people in the United States.

New research from Equal Lives co-PI Anette Fasang and Silke Aisenbrey sheds further light on the gender and race inequalities facing people who are combining work and looking after a family.

Intersectional inequalities in work and family life courses by gender and race, published as a DIAL Working Paper, looks at the different privileges and constraints that men and women face as they juggle the demands of jobs and careers with having a family.

Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79), the researchers show that, in line with other research, white men tend to enjoy the “privilege” of combining whatever sort of job they like with whatever family life they choose, whilst white women and black men and women face constraints. Anette explained:

White women and black men who are in top jobs are more likely to have fewer children and have them later. The work-family patterns of black men tend to polarize into high or low occupational prestige careers, underlining the erosion of the black middle class. Nor is there a common career path for black men in secure middle class jobs, irrespective of their family lives.

There were very few black women in top jobs, and medium prestige work was mainly accessible for black women if they abstained from having family responsibilities by not having a partner and delaying or foregoing motherhood. Indeed the research showed a sizeable group of black women who were relatively late single mothers, holding stable medium prestige jobs. Anette added:

We need to do more to try to disentangle what’s at play here. How do discrimination, gendered norms and expectations, and the availability of childcare create a situation where certain individuals and groups are disadvantaged in combining a career and having a family? We also need to look more closely which policies can deliver equal access to different work-family life courses for all.