In the long-standing generational battle between millennials and Gen Xers, here’s a point for the older folks: A new report by sociologists Joanna Pepin and David Cotter for the Council on Contemporary Families found that young millennials are far less progressive than their counterparts from two decades ago on issues regarding women and housework.
The pair consulted Monitoring the Future, a study that’s been given to high-school seniors every year for the past 40 years. They found that in 1994, 58 percent of students surveyed disagreed with the claim that the best household arrangement involved a male breadwinner and a female homemaker — but by 2014, only 42 percent felt that way. Similarly, when presented with the statement that “the husband should make all the important decisions in the family,” 71 percent of the 1994 students disagreed with it. In 2014, only 63 percent did.
Interestingly enough, when presented with questions about gender egalitarianism in the public sphere — such as “a woman should have exactly the same job opportunities as a man” — the number has stayed around 89 percent since 1994. And the percentage of students who think that “a working mother can establish just as warm and secure a relationship with her children as a mother who does not work” has only been growing in the past two decades.
One succinct way in which Pepin and Cotter explained this phenomenon was, “women entering the workforce felt they were gaining something valuable, just as fathers stepping up participation in parenting felt they were gaining something valuable, but everybody hates housework.” However, as sociologist Stephanie Coontz explores in a related New York Times piece, this grasp for dominance at home could “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.”
Either way, let’s hope Generation Z has some sense on this matter.