Attitudes toward women’s roles in society have been growing more egalitarian since the disco era, but there’s a long way to go.

University of Illinois at Chicago Ph.D. candidate William Scarborough and professor Barbara Risman, along with Ray Sin, a behavioral scientist at Morningstar Inc., analyzed more than 40 years’ worth of data from the federally funded General Social Survey to try to discover why.

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After examining two sets of responses—one pertaining to women’s roles in the home and one about their roles outside of it—they found that those attitudes began to diverge in the 1990s.

Americans increasingly accepted women in the workplace, but they still wanted them to put family first. The good news, says Scarborough, is that 69 percent of Americans today think men and women should be equals in both spheres. “That’s not to say we should be happy with what we’ve got,” he says. “But we’ve done some things right.”

  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that women still spend an average of 67 percent more time on child care than men do.
  • At least according to the General Social Survey, millennial men are more egalitarian than millennial women. Seventy-nine percent said women should be equals at home and at work, vs. 74 percent of women in their age group.
  • In 1977, 59 percent of respondents to the survey said women should work at home and nowhere else. About a decade later, that figure had shrunk to 20 percent.

 

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