Archive: Research

The U.S.: A Balance Laggard, No Matter How You Cut It

By Rebeldad Brian Reid The family-leave policies of the United States are generally the stock evidence used to demonstrate that we remain hopelessly behind the rest of the developed world in work-life policies, but thinking only about paid leave is actually a pretty crude yardstick to measure whether the federal government is really committed to policies that make work-life balance a reality. So, I'm grateful to the Institute for Women's Policy Research and the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California-Hastings, which last month pushed out a report (PDF) that compared the United States to 19 other countries on a whole bunch of other workplace flexibility metrics. The conclusions are no surprise: The United States is a laggard no matter how you look at things. The survey found 17 of 20 countries have laws on the books governing alternative work arrangements for parents. We're one of the three...

 

By Brian Reid | June 3, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Working Women Are Happy (And So Are Their Husbands)

By Rebeldad Brian Reid It's been awhile since we had a nice balance brouhaha, but I knew there was one boiling when I saw this headline at the BBC: "Mothers 'are happier' having job." The folks over at Salon picked up on it, too, running a piece that declared "The whole 'working mother' thing actually works." Of course, I couldn't trust the media to get all the facts right, so I dug up the research, from the UK's Institute for Social and Economic Research. According to the study, satisfaction with life is lowest for women who don't do paid work; those who work full-time have the highest ratings. I'm not a social scientist, but all of this seems compelling and seems to stick a pin in the idea that working women are caught in a life of two-sphere drudgery. On the flip side, it's not fair to label at-home parents...

 

By Brian Reid | December 20, 2007; 09:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Unfair Prosperity

Good news: Two out of three Americans fall into the "upwardly mobile" category. According to new research from Pew Charitable Trusts tracking 2,367 nationally representative Americans over the past four decades, this means two-thirds have higher incomes than their parents. More good news: Standard-of-living growth was most evident among low income families; four out of five children born into the bottom 20 percent of wage earners surpassed their parents' income levels. However, improvements were split along race and gender lines. According to yesterday's New York Times Op-Ed essay by Henry Louis Gates, Jr, Forty Acres and a Gap in Wealth, today nearly 70 percent of African-American babies are born out of wedlock and 45 percent of black households are headed by single moms. Downward mobility is a troubling trend among African Americans, with nearly half of black children born into middle class families slipping into the lowest income group within...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 19, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Looking Across Cultures for Good Family Models

By Rebeldad Brian Reid In the latest family-focused issue of "Greater Good," a social science magazine, one of the lead essays introduces two families enrolled in a multi-year study of the American family: the Evanses, a standard-issue, two-kid, two-income suburban clan, and the Lopezes, a six-person Mexican-American family headed by first-generation immigrants with three jobs between the two parents. The question? Which of the two families "enjoys a greater quality of life and tighter family bonds?" The authors suggest that the Lopez family, despite the external stresses, are better off in the family department, in no small part because the work-life balance issues that bedevils many Anglo-American families (and, indeed, have given rise to this blog) are countered by tighter family bonds of all sorts. The authors of the piece, Ross Park, Ph.D., the director of the Center for Family Studies at the University of California, Riverside; Scott Coltrane, Ph.D,...

 

By Brian Reid | October 18, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (99)

Should Leave for Moms Equal Leave for Dads?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid As most of you know, family leave policies are one of my favorite hobby horses, and I have a pretty straightforward view of things: The more paid leave offered for the birth of a child, the better. Work-life balance is improved, worker retention is better and parents get time with the kids that they might not otherwise have had. Of course, in the United States, long paid leave isn't required by the government, so such policies aren't exactly standard. In fact, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, good leave policies are exceedingly rare. The IWPR looked at the 100 companies on Working Mother magazine's list of the most family-friendly workplaces and found that even among these standout companies, half provide six weeks of leave or less. That's pretty unimpressive. But even more interesting is how dads are viewed by these paragons of family-friendliness. Half...

 

By Brian Reid | September 13, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (114)

Old New Parents

By Rebeldad Brian Reid When, at the tender age of 25, I sat in the waiting room before my wife's prenatal visit, I felt like some kind of teen father, surrounded by bulging bellies and nervous fathers who looked like they had at least a decade more of life under their belt. I figured it was a weird Washington phenomenon -- the average age of a mother having a first child was 24.9 in 2000 -- so I figured I was the normal one and didn't think too hard about it. Until last week. My erstwhile cube-mate Paul Nyhan at the Working Father blog pointed last week to a bevy of stats compiled by the National Centers for Health Statistics that show that it's not my imagination: The proportion of older parents is accelerating. The number of moms giving birth from age 35 to 39 was up 28 percent between...

 

By Brian Reid | September 6, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Why Scientific Research May Rot Your Brain

By Rebeldad Brian Reid I'm sure a huge chunk of you saw the news earlier this month that research from the University of Washington shows Baby Einstein videos will actively rot your kid's brain (the exact words from the press release: "over-use of such productions actually may slow down infants ... when it comes to acquiring vocabulary"). And quite a few you probably plugged in to the brouhaha that followed. Disney -- the folks who own the Baby Einstein franchise -- have gone into full-on attack mode (and not without reason), arguing that the study's limited findings were exaggerated and hyped far beyond what the science would suggest. The Mouse has asked for a full retraction. My point is not to take on the television debate -- that's for others who are far more steeped in all of this than I -- but to raise the general point that any...

 

By Brian Reid | August 23, 2007; 06:40 AM ET | Comments (0)

Dr. Mom

Back in May, The Wall Street Journal ran an intriguing Health Journal piece Paging Dr. Mom: The Role Mothers Play in Health Care (subscription or fee required). Reporter Tara Parker-Pope described when mothers, including her own, diagnosed life-threatening ailments, including appendicitis, a brain tumor, and an intestinal blockage, in their children before doctors could identify the problems. Combine this uncanny ability to sense children's illnesses with a factoid from the Kaiser Family Foundation that 80 percent of mothers choose the family doctor and ferry children to most appointments -- and moms become the heroes of pediatric healthcare. Throw this powerful role into the work/family balance and we've got several paradoxes of motherhood: How do we balance this role in our children's lives with our work obligations? How do we remain the hero while sometimes delegating our children's health care to husbands, family members, and child-care givers? Do you ever feel...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 18, 2007; 07:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

The New Disconnect: Kids and Marriage

The nonpartisan Pew Research Center yesterday released an 88-page demographic recap of surveys and interviews of 2,020 adults on the subject of marital satisfaction, including nine factors that make up a happy marriage. In what the report described as "the single most striking finding," only 41 percent of Americans said children were very important to a successful marriage, a 24 percentage-point drop versus 1990, when 65 percent of Americans described children as very important to a successful marriage. Children still matter -- 85 percent of parents with children under 18 described them as a top source of personal fulfillment -- but kids are not as integral to a happy marriage. The other major difference versus 1990 was chore-sharing, which increased by 15 points to 62 percent. For a recap of the survey results, see yesterday's Washington Post To Be Happy in Marriage, Baby Carriage Not Required. I wonder whether this...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 2, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Women in Black & White - Results Are In!

In late 2006, two mothers -- one black and one white, the white one being me -- decided to explore the interdependency of black and white women in the United States. The resulting Women in Black and White national report explores how life, love, work, motherhood, money, sex, religion and relationships differ for black and white American women. The survey grew out of a series of conversations between me and another writer and businesswoman, Paula Penn-Nabrit, who lives in Westerville, Ohio, with her husband and three sons. It is important to emphasize that this survey was not random, or scientific in any traditional sense. It was not a Washington Post-Newsweek poll or endorsed by the Washington Post or Newsweek. All answers were self-reported via Internet survey, and Paula and I conducted the analysis afterwards, leaving open the possibility of unconscious bias. Many questions were intentionally provocative to spur discussion and...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | June 6, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (437)

College Kids: Aware of Work-Life Realities?

By Rebeldad Brian Reid Two things have landed in my inbox in the last couple of months that have filled me with nostalgia. The first was an invitation to my 10-year college reunion. The second was the January issue of a Georgetown student publication, the Independent, which took on the topic of the "Mommy Wars." The piece looked in-depth at work-family balance, with explorations of at-home fatherhood (hooray!) and perspectives from some of the school's professors. The twist was that this was focused on college students, including an anonymous poll of 70 women on campus. Granted, 70 anonymous Georgetown women can hardly be taken as representative of America's young people, but it's a start. The poll, interestingly enough, asked students first about where they saw themselves in 10 years (10 years!) and 83 percent of the women polled said "married and working." In addition, the poll also contained this observation:...

 

By Brian Reid | March 22, 2007; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (350)

In Defense of the Dual-Earner Household

By Rebeldad Brian Reid One of the great myths of the work-life balancing discussion is that (as neotraditionalist rabblerouser Caitlin Flanagan once put it) "when a mother [or father] works, something is lost." The idea that kids with two working parents are somehow getting shafted is plausible enough to fuel an avalanche of books of the glories of at-home parenthood, but the actual data on this point is always pretty meager. That's why I was excited to read through this essay from the American Prospect's incredibly exhaustive series of essays on work-family balance (titled "Mother Load," but thankfully cognizant of fathers). In it, author Kathleen Gerson talks to a number of young adults about their perceptions of family, starting with their impressions of their own upbringings. And here, she drops a bombshell of sorts: Those who grew up in dual-earner homes were least ambivalent about their parents' arrangements. More than...

 

By Brian Reid | March 15, 2007; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Neanderthal Women Unite!

I'm a devoted reader of Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear series, so anything with the word "Neanderthal" in its headline grabs my attention. Two weeks ago, I was intrigued by a New York Times article Equality Between the Sexes: Neanderthal Women Joined Men in the Hunt. The article made clear that Neanderthals are alive and well -- or at least Neanderthal opinions about women's equality. The New York Times describes a hypothesis by two scientists at the University of Arizona, Mary C. Stiner and Steven L. Kuhn, in Current Anthropology, which describes itself as "one of the leading international scholarly journals in anthropology since 1961." The suggestion in their article, titled What's a Mother to Do? is that Neanderthals did not die out in the Upper Paleolithic period from biological or cognitive differences vs. modern humans, as other anthropologists have surmised for centuries, but because women tried to...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | December 19, 2006; 09:30 AM ET | Comments (366)

Women in Black & White

Leading a Mommy Wars discussion in Columbus, Ohio, I met a woman named Paula Penn-Nabrit, with whom I had a great deal in common: We both have three children, had studied at elite East Coast colleges, both worked in business, and each had written a book about parenthood. (And if Paula's name sounds familiar, it may be because On Balance profiled her experience homeschooling her sons a few months ago.) Our primary difference is that Paula is black and I am white. But we discovered that this led to another commonality: We both had long wondered why candid communication and camaraderie between black and white women, at work, school and home, is unusual in America. So we decided to do something about it. We developed the first national survey exploring how life, love, work, motherhood, money, sex, religion, and relationships differ for black and white women in America. This isn't...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | November 1, 2006; 07:24 AM ET | Comments (278)

Sex & Success: What We Think (But Can't Say)

On this blog, we can (and often do) say whatever we want. Our discussions reveal how biased we are versus others -- or how biased others are versus ourselves. Sometimes we don't realize we are prejudiced until others expose us. Along these lines, I haven't been able to stop thinking about a 20/20 television episode I happened to catch way back on September 15 titled Race & Sex: What We Think But Can't Say that tackled the psychology of stereotyping and the self-fulfilling power of internalized prejudice. This so-called "stereotype effect" has been found in study after study of women, according to NYU psychology professor Joshua Aaronson, who appeared on the 20/20 segment. "We found that just reminding women that they were college students at a selective college overcame the gender gap. However, when we remind them that they're women, the gap widens." 20/20 asked The Kaplan Education and Test...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | October 30, 2006; 06:30 AM ET | Comments (284)

Working Mom Top Fears

In July we chewed on issues raised by the AFL-CIO's Ask A Working Woman survey. Many of you, along with 26,000 other working women, took the online questionnaire from June through mid-August. You can now take a look at the survey results. Before delving into the numbers, a few caveats. Respondents skew older than the average population: 65 percent are age 40 and over. Only 20 percent have children younger than 18 living with them; in the general population more than 70 percent of working moms have children under age 18. And respondents are largely (84 percent) white. But even with these disclaimers it's woth listening to 26,000 women. "Pay" (wages, salary, paycheck) is the most frequently cited concern. Affordable health care, retirement security, and equal rights also top the list of concerns for women who responded to the survey. Other worries are discrimination on the job, finding and keeping...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | September 18, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (155)

Fewer Women At Work

Amidst all the hair pulling (or rejoicing, depending on one's view) over talented, well-educated women "opting out" of the workforce to raise kids, the Washington Post's Business section recently ran Whither the Women?, an article filled with interesting facts about women's participation in the work force since World War II. According to the article, 66 percent of adults work. Fifty-nine percent of women work; close to 74 percent of men work. According to some economists, the share of working women peaked in 2000 at just over 60 percent, providing fodder for opinion leaders on women's issues to start scratching their heads. A noteworthy example was Lisa Belkins' October 2003 New York Times Magazine piece The Opt-Out Revolution. Belkin interviewed several Atlanta mothers who reflected the United States Census statistics showing the number of children being cared for by stay-at-home moms had increased nearly 13 percent in less than a decade;...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 19, 2006; 07:38 AM ET | Comments (0)

Latest Guilt Trip for Mothers

Steel yourselves, sisters: Here's the latest guilt trip for mothers (double dose for working moms who delay childbearing to establish selves in career). You need to have children before you turn 25. This comes our way from a respected husband-and-wife research team at the University of Chicago, whose latest findings show that children born to mothers under 25 have double the chance of living to 100 and beyond. Data shows the father's age to be less important (of course!). All of this was reported in a June 23 Reuter's article titled Key to Long Life May Be Mom's Age. This kind of reporting on complex issues facing mothers, packaged as objective data but infused with a finger-wag at women, drives me crazy. For instance, the researcher was quoted as saying, "The finding that children born to young women are more likely to live to 100 may have important social implications...because...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | July 10, 2006; 09:40 AM ET | Comments (130)

The End of Motherhood?

A reporter for German Public Radio recently asked me a startling question: If the U.S. is so inhospitable to working moms, and European countries offer long maternity leaves, job security, and child-care stipends, why are American women having so many babies when European women are not? Turns out the "total fertility rate" or TFR in Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland and Russia is far lower than the 2.0 TFR needed to replace the population, according to an article in Newsweek's May 29 issue. In the U.S. the TFR is 2.1 children for every woman. According to an article this past Sunday in The Washington Post, the birthrate is even higher in parts of Utah, Texas and even Loudoun County just outside Washington, D.C. (and doubtless in other pockets throughout the U.S.) I have two answers. First, motherhood is not a rational business. Most of us don't decide to have children because...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 25, 2006; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Lies Moms Tell

Parenting magazine just published a survey of 1,800 moms and the lies we tell. Turns out we lie most to our kids (89%), our husbands (87%) and our friends (72%). I'm stunned that "employers and co-workers" didn't make the cut. What do moms lie about? With husbands, seems we lie most about money (45%). Sex is a close second. With our kids, women say little white lies are a necessary evil (53%) and that the truth would just upset them. We lie to our friends about our husbands (36%), their husbands (18%) and their kids (33%). I'm trying to figure out if I lie, too. I don't to my kids -- even when it comes to my first marriage, the facts of life, and other difficult subjects. My husband? I don't lie to him, but I do omit a few things (price tags come to mind). My friends? What good...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 24, 2006; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

News Flash: Taking Care of Kids is Real Work!

Fabulous facts released yesterday, just in time for Mother's Day: A full-time stay-at-home mother would earn $134,121 a year if paid for all her work, according to a study released Wednesday by Waltham, Mass.-based compensation experts Salary.com. The amount is similar to that earned by top U.S. ad executives, marketing directors or judges, according to a Reuters story on the study. A mother who works outside the home would earn an extra $85,876 annually on top of her actual wages for the work she does at home, the study says. The calculations are based on the hourly wages of a mix of jobs, including housekeeper, day-care teacher, cook, computer whiz, laundry machine operator, janitor, facilities manager, van driver, chief executive and psychologist. As all of us very tired moms/psychologists/janitors know, our work is far more than a full-time job, and overtime is the killer: The average stay-at-home mom reports working...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 4, 2006; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (139)

Women of the Future

On April 12, The Economist ran a story about the future of the world economy lying in female hands. Among the facts cited: Girls now perform better at school than boys; more women are getting university degrees than men; women are filling most new jobs. Worldwide since 1970 women have filled two new jobs for every one taken by a man. Educating girls is likely the best single investment that can be made in to boost prosperity in developing countries. In the United States, men's employment rate has decreased 12 percentage points to 77 percent since 1950. Women's employment has increased from one-third to two-thirds in the same period. Women now make up almost half of America's workforce. Why? Since the 1950s, many formerly male educational institutions in the U.S. have opened to women, paving the way for women to get better paid, and more diverse, jobs. There's also been...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | May 1, 2006; 07:35 AM ET | Comments (92)

Equal Pay Day

Today is Equal Pay Day -- because (in case you missed Amy Joyce's Life at Work column on Sunday) today marks how far into 2006 (115 days) the average full-time working woman must go to earn as much as a man earned during 2005. And don't go thinking the working woman numbers are pulled down by lesser educations or inadequate experience or because women chose to take time off to give birth or raise children. These numbers measure salaries of women who work full-time and haven't been out of work for any type of pregnancy, maternity or disability leave within the past 12 months. These women are paid only 77 cents for every dollar earned by comparable male employees. Women who work part-time or have taken maternity leave earn even less! And women's earnings have been stuck at this level for most of the past decade. Here's more: A Cornell...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 25, 2006; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (190)

Forty Years of American Parenthood

Suzanne Bianchi is a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, a former director of the Maryland Population Research Center, and a co-author of a new book coming out this summer called Changing Rhythms of American Family Life, which presents findings from time diary data from surveys conducted over the last forty years. There are some surprising facts about the way families balance the demands of work and family. Despite hype to the contrary, preserving family time is a priority in America -- despite workloads that have increased since 1965 for both men and women. Today's employed moms spend roughly the same amount of time with their children as stay-at-home moms did in 1975. Since the mid-1980s, fathers have been increasing the amount of time they spend with their children (including the basics of childcare such as feeding and bathing). Moms are doing less housework, multitasking more and taking...

 

By Leslie Morgan Steiner | April 10, 2006; 08:13 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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