Gender Inequality, Employment, and Family in Postindustrial Societies

May 1, 2018
Professor Mary Brinton

Mary Brinton has been studying gender inequality for a long time, motivated in particular by the high level of gender inequality in Japan and other East Asian societies. Her current project considers gender inequality in light of what many social demographers consider a crisis of the family as an institution—namely, the emergence of historically low birth rates throughout the postindustrial world. In a series of journal articles and a book manuscript, Brinton demonstrates how ill-adapted the male-breadwinner model of the family is to 21st-century reality. Postindustrial societies with the lowest birth rates (countries in East Asia, Southern Europe, and Eastern Europe) generally have a combination of conservative gender-role attitudes, long work hours, and rigid labor market institutions that heavily penalize mothers’ time away from employment. The result? Young people are marrying later or not at all, thereby avoiding the competing demands of work and family, and more and more married couples are having just one child. Employing quantitative data and original in-depth interviews with young adults in five countries, Brinton demonstrates that more flexible labor markets, shorter work hours, and more gender-egalitarian attitudes provide the best support for “doing family” in the 21st century.