The Changing Rhythms of American Family Life

Russell Sage Foundation
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Over the last forty years, the number of American households with a stay-at-home parent has dwindled as women have increasingly joined the paid workforce and more women raise children alone. Many policy makers feared these changes would come at the expense of time mothers spend with their children. In Changing Rhythms of American Family Life, sociologists Suzanne M. Bianchi, John P. Robinson, and Melissa Milkie analyze the way families spend their time and uncover surprising new findings about how Americans are balancing the demands of work and family. Using time diary data from surveys of American parents over the last four decades, Changing Rhythms of American Family Life finds that—despite increased workloads outside of the home—mothers today spend at least as much time interacting with their children as mothers did decades ago—and perhaps even more. Unexpectedly, the authors find mothers' time at work has not resulted in an overall decline in sleep or leisure time. Rather, mothers have made time for both work and family by sacrificing time spent doing housework and by increased "multitasking." Changing Rhythms of American Family Life finds that the total workload (in and out of the home) for employed parents is high for both sexes, with employed mothers averaging five hours more per week than employed fathers and almost nineteen hours more per week than homemaker mothers. Comparing average workloads of fathers with all mothers—both those in the paid workforce and homemakers—the authors find that there is gender equality in total workloads, as there has been since 1965. Overall, it appears that Americans have adapted to changing circumstances to ensure that they preserve their family time and provide adequately for their children. Changing Rhythms of American Family Life explodes many of the popular misconceptions about how Americans balance work and family. Though the iconic image of the American mother has changed from a docile homemaker to a frenzied, sleepless working mom, this important new volume demonstrates that the time mothers spend with their families has remained steady throughout the decades.
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About the author

SUZANNE M. BIANCHI is professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park. JOHN P. ROBINSON is professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park. MELISSA A. MILKIE is associate professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Russell Sage Foundation
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Published on
Jul 13, 2006
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9781610440516
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / General
Business & Economics / Time Management
Family & Relationships / General
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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When journalist Josh Levs was denied fair parental leave by his employer after his child was born, he fought back—and won. Since then, he’s become an advocate for modern families and working fathers. In All In, he explores the changing face of fatherhood and what it means for our individual lives, families, workplaces, and society.

Fatherhood today is far different from previous generations. Stay-at-home dads are increasingly common, and growing numbers of men are working part-time or flextime schedules to spend more time with their children.  Even the traditional breadwinner-dad is being transformed. Dads today are more emotionally and physically involved on the home front. They are “all in” and—like mothers—they are struggling with work-life balance and doing it all.

Journalist and “dad columnist” Josh Levs explains that despite these unprecedented changes, our laws, corporate policies, and gender-based expectations in the workplace remain rigid. They are preventing both women and men from living out the equality we believe in—and hurting businesses in the process. Women have done a great job of speaking out about this, Levs—whose fight for parental leave made front page news across the country—argues. It’s now time for men to join in.

Combining Levs’ personal experiences with investigative reporting and frank conversations with fathers about everything from work life to money to sex, All In busts popular myths, lays out facts, uncovers the forces holding all of us back, and shows how we can all join together to change them.

"A wonderful compendium of everything you always wanted to know about trends in women's roles—both in and out of the home. It is a balanced and data-rich assessment of how far women have come and how far they still have to go. "—Isabelle Sawhill, Urban Institute "Based primarily on the 1990 population census, Balancing Act reports on the current situation of American women and temporal and cross-national comparisons. Meticulously and clearly presented, the information in this book highlights changing behaviors, such as the growing incidence of childbearing to older women, and unmarried women in general, and a higher ratio of women's earnings to men's. The authors' thoughtful analysis of these and other factors involved in women's fin de siècle 'balancing act' make this an indispensable reference book and valuable classroom resource." —Louise A. Tilly, Michael E. Gellert Professor of History and Sociology, The New School for Social Research In Balancing Act, authors Daphne Spain and Suzanne Bianchi draw upon multiple census and survey sources to detail the shifting conditions under which women manage their roles as mothers, wives, and breadwinners. They chronicle the progress made in education—where female college enrollment now exceeds that of males—and the workforce, where women have entered a wider variety of occupations and are staying on the job longer, even after becoming wives and mothers. But despite progress, lower-paying service and clerical positions remain predominantly female, and although the salary gap between men and women has shrunk, women are still paid less. As women continue to establish a greater presence outside the home, many have delayed marriage and motherhood. Marked jumps in divorce and out-of-wedlock childbirth have given rise to significant numbers of female-headed households. Married women who work contribute more significantly than ever to the financial well-being of their families, yet evidence shows that they continue to perform most household chores. Balancing Act focuses on how American women juggle the simultaneous demands of caregiving and wage earning, and compares their options to those of women in other countries. The United States is the only industrialized nation without policies to support working mothers and their families—most tellingly in the absence of subsidized childcare services. Many women are forced to work in less rewarding part-time or traditionally female jobs that allow easy exit and re-entry, and as a consequence poverty is the single greatest danger facing American women. As the authors show, the risk of poverty varies significantly by race and ethnicity, with African Americans—most of whose children live in mother-only families—the most adversely affected. This volume contributes to the national dialogue about family policy, welfare reform, and responsibility for children by highlighting the pivotal roles women play at the intersection of family and work.
This is the first in a series of eighteen projected volumes, to be published over the next two years, aimed at converting the vast statistical yield of the 1980 Census into authoritative analyses of major changes and trends in American life. A collaborative research effort, funded by public and private foundations, this series revives a tradition of independent Census analysis (the last such project was undertaken in 1960) and offers an unparalleled array of studies on various ethnic, geographic, and status dimensions of the U.S. population. It is entirely appropriate that the inaugural volume in this series should document trends in the status of American women. Dramatic social and demographic changes over the past two decades make American Women in Transition a landmark, an invaluable one-volume summary and assessment of women's move from the private domain to the public. Clearly and in detail, the authors describe women's increasing educational attainment and labor force participation, their lagging earning power, their continued commitment to marriage and family, and the "balancing act" necessitated by this overlap of roles. Supplementing 1980 Census data with even more recent surveys from the Census Bureau and other federal agencies, Bianchi and Spain are able to extend these trends into the 1980s and sketch the complex challenges posed by such lasting and historic changes. This definitive and sensitive study is certain to become a standard reference work on American women today, and an essential foundation for future scholarship and policy concerning the status of women in our society. A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Census Series
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