Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Sociology

First Advisor

Annette Lareau

Abstract

Over the last few decades, there has been tremendous progress toward gender equality. In recent years though, some scholars have suggested that this movement toward gender equality has stalled as women’s progress in various arenas, especially the home and in their labor-force participation, has plateaued. Scholars have thus focused their attention on ascertaining whether, where and for whom gender equality has stalled. Using family observation data as well as longitudinal in depth interviews with unemployed women, unemployed men, and their spouses, this dissertation argues that for this sample gender continues to powerfully shape life at home and orientations to the labor force. It shows that unemployed men’s unemployment experiences are central. Unemployment is perceived by unemployed men and their spouses as problematic, and in need of immediate rectification. During men’s unemployment, the home, family life and marital dynamics are organized so as to enable men to find re-employment. Alternatives to full-time paid employment are not considered. In contrast, the experience of demographically similar unemployed women is peripheral as their unemployment recedes to the backdrop of family life rather than being the center of it. Unemployed women do spend time job-searching, but they fit this into the schedule of their family life. Indeed, unemployed women often find themselves devoting extensive time to housework and childcare as they contend with being unemployed. Their husbands too emphasize that it is not imperative for women to find a job immediately, and they can take the time to focus on the home and children. Not all unemployed women’s experiences are equally peripheral. The cases that are less so nevertheless illuminate the gendered tensions between couples about the role of women’s paid employment in their marriage and family. These findings thus strongly support the idea of a gender stall for this sample. They show how, during the critical moment of unemployment, when gender rearrangements can be reconfigured and transformed in the home, the behaviors and attitudes of unemployed women, men, and their spouses, remain entrenched in normative notions of gender.

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Available to all on Monday, January 13, 2020

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