A recent study conducted by sociology professors at UCSB and the University of Texas at Austin has found that most young American men and women prefer egalitarian relationships when it comes to dividing work and household responsibilities.
UCSB Assistant professor of sociology Sarah Thébaud and UT Austin assistant professor David Pedulla conducted random surveys of men and women between the ages of 18 and 32 and found that the majority of both sexes who are not married and do not have children prefer to be in egalitarian relationships, in which both partners share earnings as well as household and caregiving responsibilities. The study also found that egalitarian relationships are often difficult to establish under current American workplace policies, which do not tend to support a work-family balance that allows men and women to share caregiving responsibilities.
The study’s primary purpose was to examine whether varying options in the work environment such as subsidized childcare, paid parental and family medical leave and more flexible scheduling would affect young men and women’s personal views on egalitarian relationships, Thébaud said.
“We wanted to know whether or not young men and women would be more likely to prefer an egalitarian relationship if supportive work-family policies, like paid leave and flexible work hours, were in place,” Thébaud said.
The implementation of supportive work-family policies would enable young men and women to achieve the kind of life they would ideally like to have, an ideal that is more gender-egalitarian than in previous generations. – UCSB Assistant professor of sociology Sarah Thébaud
According to Pedulla, women in particular may be more likely to favor egalitarian relationships if there were fewer strict work policies and regulations that stood in the way of gender equality in the work force.
“Women’s work-family preferences are particularly responsive to supportive work-family policies,” Pedulla said. “If these supportive policies are in place, women are much more likely to prefer egalitarian relationships and much less likely to prefer neo-traditional relationships.”
In order for young men and women to pursue potentially egalitarian relationships, Thébaud said it is vital that changes in American work policies are made.
“The implementation of supportive work-family policies would enable young men and women to achieve the kind of life they would ideally like to have, an ideal that is more gender-egalitarian than in previous generations,” Thébaud said. “If we were to implement more supportive work-family policies, we would likely see more young people pursuing egalitarian relationships.”
Sociology professor Maria Charles said discussions regarding working vs. non-working mothers tend to ignore the possibility of providing egalitarian work-family policies.
“In the United States, debates about whether or not some mothers ‘prefer’ to exit the labor force or work part-time tend to take for granted an existing configuration of work structures and policy provisions that make it difficult to reconcile full-time employment with care-taking obligations,” Charles said. “These include weak provisions for paid parental leave and low availability of quality, affordable childcare.”