In 2021, the number of stay-at-home dads in the United States reached record highs. Does this mean that cultural views about gender, masculinity, work, and family—particularly the idea that men should be breadwinners—are changing? Not necessarily.
Our recent research in Gender & Society assesses cultural views of stay-at-home fathers over three decades, by examining their portrayal in leading newspapers and magazines between 1987 and 2016. We found that news portrayals of stay-at-home dads have indeed become more positive over time. But the growing support for full-time caregiver fathers is conditional.
Dads who lost their jobs because of involuntary unemployment are viewed sympathetically, especially since the Great Recession. But dads who are able to work, but choose to stay home with children instead, are still described negatively. As much as we’d like to think that the gender-bending phenomenon of (slightly) increasing numbers of dads at home is a harbinger of more fundamental gender liberalization, our results suggest that this is not unambiguously the case.
When the pandemic hit in early 2020, many of us increasingly turned to gig workers to have meals, groceries and other household necessities delivered to our doorsteps.
The increased demand for these services during this period meant that online labor platforms were an alternative source of income for at least some of the workers who had been laid off as part of the resulting economic shutdowns. For other workers looking to reduce their exposure to the virus, online crowdwork platforms offered remote job opportunities that could be performed from the safety of their home.
During a period of unprecedent upheaval, risk and uncertainty, then, the gig economy provided some much-needed flexibility and convenience to many consumers and workers. These purported benefits remain core to platform firms’ marketing strategies as they seek to expand in a future post-pandemic economy.
Employment insecurity has emerged as a defining trait of the contemporary American economy, and it’s not just workers who fear job loss. Employment insecurity manifests at the community level as well. Shared concerns over an area’s ‘business climate’ and its relationship to employment growth inform virtually every area of local politics in the United States, often through the work of public economic development agencies operating in partnership with the private sector. Maintaining a favorable business climate to encourage job growth means limiting regulation, offering enticing tax breaks or publicly funded business infrastructure to potential employers, and promising a skilled and eager workforce (preferably one that is not unionized).
Large companies with the ability to relocate or grow their operations elsewhere exercise a great deal of power over their workers and the communities in which they do business.