Bringing Family Demography in: Class Variation in Family Behaviors and the Implications for Inequality Patterns

Friday, July 18, 2014: 3:45 PM
Room: Booth 42
Oral Presentation
Haya STIER , Sociology, Labor Studies, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
Stratification research focuses, traditionally, on the role of families as providing the life conditions for future achievements and opportunities. Studies have highlighted the importance of family structure and family behaviors (e.g., assortative mating) in producing and reproducing inequalities, class position and life chances. Recent changes in family patterns point attention to the interplay between social class and family demography, which is not yet fully incorporated in stratification research. Changes in family behaviors, including family formation and dissolution, fertility patterns and parenting practices, and the economic behavior of women are not uniform across social classes.  Studies emphasize the importance of family structure (e.g., the vulnerable position of single-headed families); the economic consequences of divorce or the effect of homogamy on inequality among families. Recently, more attention is given to the contribution of family behaviors (e.g., assortative mating; differential fertility) to the general level of inequality.

In this paper I highlight the importance of class disparities in family behaviors and their consequences to the life chances of individuals. I emphasize in particular the important role of women's educational attainment plays in determining family behaviors, and the various consequences of class and family interaction to the economic disparities between families and gender inequality within families in particular the gendered division of paid and unpaid work. Recent studies, for example, documented a higher risk of divorce for the lower classes. Similarly, women's education is related to their work activity and the formation of dual-earner families. These differences further deepen disparities between families and individuals that grew up in different types of families located in different class positions. Taking class variation in family behaviors into account is necessary in order to understand the direction of inequalities and how different policies and institutional arrangements may alleviate them.