The Council on Contemporary Families published a report this week suggesting the gender revolution has rebounded. Using data from the General Social Survey (GSS), sociologists Cotter, Hermsen, and Vanneman provided an update on public attitudes about gender. As a rookie sociologist (i.e. lowly graduate student), this seemed like a great opportunity to try my hand at replicating and extending their sociological research by looking at American high school students' attitudes about gender. This is an important population to study because scholars who study adult attitudes may be capturing changes in respondents' post hoc justifications for their behavior as a result of confronting resistant social structures and adulthood realities.
I used data from Monitoring the Future (MTF), a survey given annually to a nationally representative group of American 12th grade students. Three of the four egalitarian attitude variables in the GSS are also available from MTF and are asked in the same manner (FECHLD, FEPRESCH, and FEFAM). Whereas the answers in the GSS included a four-point agreement scale, in MTF, the respondents could answer on a five-point agreement scale: disagree, mostly disagree, neither, mostly agree, and agree. The fourth variable (FEPOL) regarding attitudes about female politicians was worded differently than the GSS on the MTF surveys: Women should be considered as seriously as men for jobs as executives or politicians. In a previous class, I replicated Cotter and colleagues original publication so I feel reasonably confident that methodological differences are not contaminating my results.
I charted the four MTF variables below. Noticeably, the question on women in politics is an outlier and remains consistently high over time. Agreement that working moms have warm relationships with kids was consistently higher than average agreement in the GSS by about 10%. Disagreement that preschoolers suffer when mothers work began at about 30% agreement and has risen to about 65% agreement for both GSS and MTF respondents.
Most interestingly, disagreement with the statement that it's better if a man works and the woman takes care of the home peaked in the 1990s at about 70% and has declined to 60% disagreement by 2012. This pattern is noticeably different than that of the averages for the population in the GSS. Today, 12th graders are less likely to disagree with these stereotypical gender roles than the general population. In 2012, 60% of MTF respondents disagreed with the statement compared to about 70% of GSS takers.
The Millennial generation is certainly one to watch. As noted by Cotter and colleagues, their egalitarianism is high. However, their egalitarian ideology is not consistently increasing over time. I'm not yet convinced that the stall in the gender revolution is over.