Heterosexual marriages where the wife earns more than her husband are increasingly prevalent in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women out-earn their husbands in almost 30% of dual-earner couples in 2020, up from just 18% in the 1980s. This is despite the fact that traditional ideas endure and many men still feel strong pressure to be the family breadwinner.
Clearly, there is a misalignment between women’s increasing economic power and the still prevalent traditional or “neotraditional” male-breadwinner model, a model in which wives either are not working or are employed but earn considerably less than their husbands. Does such a disjuncture lead to stress? Google certainly thinks so. A quick search of “wife breadwinner” leads to autocompleted terms such as “resentment,” “divorce,” or “wants divorce.” This is in line with previous research showing heightened risk of marital dissatisfaction and marital dissolution when wives earn more.
What is less understood, however, is whether this pattern reflects largely white couples’ experiences. Compared with whites, families in which the wife is the sole or primary breadwinner are much more common among Blacks. This can be traced back to the distinct work history of Blacks. Black men, for example, do not enjoy a boost in wages (“daddy bonus”) as much as their white counterparts when they become a father. Co-provider parents who both work for pay has long been the norm for Black married couples. Indeed, a recent interview study shows that a key component of being a strong Black woman is to being able to provide financially for the family. Being an equal- or sole-breadwinner is not problematic for Black women.
Many connect ‘unfree labor’ with slavery. This view, however, makes other forms of ‘unfreedom,’ where labor is prevented from entering or exiting labor markets on their own, escape scrutiny.
Based on ethnographic research conducted among Sri Lanka’s female global factory workers, my new work demonstrates that even when women are not forced to join or stay within contractor labor pools, they remain unfree due to cultural and emotional bonds that restrict their mobility.
Focusing on the intricate ways such invisible bonds are produced, I shed light on the contradictions of global capitalism: specifically, the promise of freedom versus the reality of complex forms of coercion. Instead of the promised social independence, women encounter newer forms of control and discipline that seek to make them obedient workers of global assembly lines.
Corporate managers used to track stores through weekly or monthly sales records, phone calls, and in-person visits. Today, software creates near-constant – but not necessarily meaningful – communication between store managers and their senior corporate counterparts.
Metrics like “sales per hour,” which captures a store’s sales revenue per labor-hour, now drive moment-to-moment corporate decisions about staffing. These just-in-time scheduling practices try to match the sales volume to workers on the clock at any moment.
The goal is to minimize labor costs. Yet, the result may not be higher profits.
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is the publicly funded health care provider in the country. It is the largest non-military employer in the world. Similar to US medical services, it is heavily dependent on migrant doctors to deliver essential medical services. Many accounts, though, find evidence for inequality in their careers and pay.
Twenty six percent of UK doctors have obtained their primary medical qualification overseas, migrating from the European Economic Area (EEA) or further afield (international medical graduate or IMG). Research on the experience of women doctors and on migrant doctors can be located, but with a notable exception. It is less common to see gender and place of qualification considered together. So, we wanted to know – do NHS migrant doctors experience pay gaps compared with their UK-trained counterparts? Are they worse for women? And if so, how can they be narrowed?
In January 21 of 2016, Bloomberg Businessweek published a cover story titled “Why Doesn’t Silicon Valley Hire Black Coders”. Vauhini Vara followed a cohort of Black computer science students enrolled at Howard University located in Washington, D.C., one of the oldest historically Black universities in the United States. Even after a Google engineer upgrades the curriculum, students in this cohort are denied opportunities to work full time in Silicon Valley. Vara informs the reader that “although 20 percent of all black computer science graduates attend a historically black school … the Valley wasn’t looking for those candidates”.
In this same year, Reveal’s Center for Investigative Reporting analyzed the diversity reports of Silicon Valley technology firms. It found that Black employees made up no more than 2 percent of the 23 companies, who had released their figures. Eight of the twenty-three companies that provided their demographics including Google, Twitter, Square and 23andMe, did not report a single Black woman in an executive role. In a separate study conducted by The Ascend Foundation, a pan-Asian foundation, found that the number of Black and Latinx women had actually declined between 2014 and 2017.
The debate about the impact of automation on the labour market has been ongoing for several years, as new technologies are taking over jobs currently performed by workers. Our study discusses how workers are responding to the growing automation of production processes, and why human capital adjustments are crucial for the workforce to remain competitive in the labour market also in future.
Industrial robots are among the leading automation technologies of the last decades. The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) defines them as “automatically controlled, reprogrammable, multipurpose manipulators, programmable in three or more axes”, and estimates that the global stock of robots has increased from 500 thousand to almost three million units between the early 1990s and the late 2010s.
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.
I was sitting in an open-ended police van with half a dozen policewomen, “hanging out” with them as they awaited orders to begin crowd control in that part of town.
A policeman came up to the back of our open-ended van and told us that it had to be taken somewhere else; we had to get off. The women grumbled good-naturedly as they began gathering their things and climbed out.
One of them, Ruqqaiya, began adjusting her headscarf so that she could also use it to cover her lower face. She then pulled out a black gown from her bag and began putting that on top of her uniform.
About 70% of U.S. moms can expect to be primary financial providers before their first child turns 18.
In a substantial number of families with children, mothers, whether single or partnered, are now the primary breadwinner. More than 40 percent of American mothers solely or primarily support their minor children through their own earnings in any given year.
For most of the 20th century, except in wartime, says historian Stephanie Coontz, women who were the primary source of their children’s income were generally unmarried, divorced, or widowed. But for the past two decades, the most rapid growth in breadwinning mothers has been among partnered women. As late as 2000, only 15 percent of primary-earning mothers were married. But by 2017, married women accounted for almost 40 percent of mothers whose earnings were the primary support for their families, based on the 1990-2000 Censuses and 2010-2017 American Community Surveys.
Most popular discourse on “returns to college” tends to assume—implicitly or explicitly—that adult class location is largely a result of individual earnings that flow from investments in education.
Recently, we published a qualitative longitudinal study of social mobility among a cohort of college-educated white women in the American Journal of Sociology. We followed 45 women who started college on the same residence hall at a flagship public university for 12 years, with a final wave of data collection at age 30.
We show that social class location over time was “sticky,” in that both upward and downward mobility were limited. The heavy hand of social class in shaping both marital patterns and the transfer of wealth accounts for the persistence of class position across generations.
Work in Progress is a project of the American Sociological Association's Sections on Organizations, Occupations, and Work, Economic Sociology, Labor and Labor Movements, and Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility