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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - American sociological review
Title Opting out? Cohort differences in professional women's employment rates from 1960 to 2005
Volume 73
Issue 3
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2008
Page numbers 497-517
URL http://inequality.stanford.edu/_media/pdf/Reference Media/Percheski_2008_Gender.pdf
Over the past 50 years, women’s roles have changed dramatically—a reality captured by
substantial increases in employment and reductions in fertility. Yet, the social
organization of work and family life has not changed much, leading to pervasive
work–family conflict. Observing these strains, some scholars wonder whether U.S.
women’s high employment levels are sustainable. Women’s employment in professional
and managerial occupations—the core of the analyses offered in this article—merits
particular interest because of the material and symbolic implications for gender
equality. In a cohort analysis of working-age women born between 1906 and 1975, I
show that employment levels among college-educated women in professional and
managerial occupations have increased across cohorts. Full-time, year-round
employment rates continue to rise across cohorts, even among women in historically
male professions and mothers of young children. Although labor force participation rates
have stopped rising, they have stalled at a very high rate, with less than 8 percent of
professional women born since 1956 out of the labor force for a year or more during
their prime childbearing years. Moreover, the difference in employment rates between
mothers and childless women—the “child penalty”—is shrinking across cohorts.

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