Would younger generations be happier if they were back in the ’50s?
In an opinion piece in the New York Times , Stephanie Coontz, who teaches history and family studies, reports that a series of surveys released today raises doubts about the generations’ committment to gender equality.
Sociologists Joanna Pepin and David Cotter have found that the a larger percentage of millennials who “reject the superiority of the male-breadwinner family” has dropped from 83 percent in 1994 to 55-percent in 2014. And 58 percent of high school seniors said the best family is the one where men earn the money, and women take care of the home. Forty percent now believe that men “should make all the important decisions in the family.”
The political scientist Dan Cassino suggests that the increased support for male leadership in home life among 18- to 25-year-olds may reflect an attempt to compensate for men’s loss of dominance in the work world. Youths surveyed in 2014 grew up in the shadow of the financial crisis, which accelerated the longstanding erosion of men’s earning power. During the 2016 primaries, when Professor Cassino asked voters questions designed to remind them that many women now earn more than men, men became less likely to support Mrs. Clinton. Perhaps a segment of youth is reacting to financial setbacks suffered by their fathers. Indeed, a 2015 poll commissioned by MTV found that 27 percent of males aged 14 to 24 felt women’s gains had come at the expense of men.
It’s not just the youngest millennials who seem resistant to continuing the gender revolution. Overall, Americans aged 18 to 34 are less comfortable than their elders with the idea of women holding roles historically held by men. And millennial men are significantly more likely than Gen X or baby boomer men to say that society has already made all the changes needed to create equality in the workplace.
Coontz says one of the reasons why younger people are beginning to reject gender equality in the family is they witnessed the struggle their dual-earner parents had balancing work and home.