Friday, June 11, 2010

Social status and women in the workplace

General Social Survey participants were asked: "Do you approve or disapprove of a married woman earning money in business or industry if she has a husband capable of supporting her?"

I looked for factors that would predict disapproval of women working (sample size = 6,600):

Logistic regression coefficients (odds)

Age 1.02*
Conservatism 1.03
Female .92
IQ .98*
Education .96*
Job prestige .99*
Church attendance 1.05*

* p < .05, two-tailed

The coefficients are displayed in terms of odds. For example, each year of age raises the odds that one will disapprove of a woman working by a factor of 1.02, or 2 percent. An odds of 1.00 indicates that the factor is unrelated to the outcome variable.

Older, lower status, and religious folks are more likely to disapprove of married women working. Gender and political orientation have no significant effect, so men and women, and conservatives and liberals do not differ in their attitudes.

The listed groups have been slower to give up on the breadwinner model of family life. This is odd for the lower status groups since they could use a second income more than better off groups. Lower- and working-class folks--women as well as men--are more likely to "cling" to traditional notions of manhood (e.g., the leader, the provider) while elites have abandoned such ideas as outdated and misogynistic. 

Most poor, married women work, but they still have the ideal of a strong man who will take care of them. Simpler people are not quite as giddy as the educated class about an androgynous world with female ultimate fighters and men in aprons.       


  1. As was pointed out in Slate, traditionalist women who are pushed into work by their financial situation are happier than wives who have feminist ideals.

  2. Anonymous2:21 PM

    "This is odd for the lower status groups since they could use a second income more than better off groups."

    Not so odd. Note the phrasing of the question: "if she has a husband capable of supporting her". These aren't households that need two incomes to get by. The respondents likely envision high-earning double-income families, who they see as hogging the good jobs, so that they (both of them) end up working at Walmart.


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