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Class, Gender, and Social Dynamics

Using Master Narratives to Analyze Gender

In Child Development, IPR developmental psychologist Onnie Rogers investigates how children’s gender identity narratives reinforce or disrupt hierarchy around gender and if age and gender matters to these narratives. Rogers interviewed 233 children from diverse racial backgrounds aged 7–12 from three schools in the Pacific Northwest. She asked students about their social relationships, academic experiences, and the importance of gender. She divided student responses into four different narratives or “shared cultural stories” that reinforce structural inequality by organizing how individuals formulate their own identity about gender. The majority of children, 61%, recounted a difference narrative in which they spoke about gender in ways that emphasized the differences between boys and girls. Only 3% told genderblind stories, which consider gender as inconsequential. The gender stories seemed to express conflict and tension in incongruent narratives for 22% of the children. They voiced discrepancies embedded in gender hierarchy, such as “I like being a girl,” but “I don’t like being treated badly.” The remaining 13% constructed a counternarrative, acknowledging that boys and girls are not treated equally and protesting gender injustices. Overall, age and gender mattered in the narrative children told about gender. Older students, fifth and sixth graders, were more likely to tell narratives that disrupted the status quo than younger students, second, third, and fourth graders, and girls told more of these narratives than boys. This work underscores that children are able to and will question injustices related to social groups. Rogers writes that future work should explore whether these attitudes are specific to this age of development and the role race plays in children’s attitudes about gender.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Equality

In an IPR working paper, economist and IPR associate Matthias Doepke and his colleagues explore how COVID-19 has impacted the employment of women and men differently. The researchers look at which gender held jobs considered critical during the pandemic and were in occupations where employees could work from home using the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) data and the American Community Survey in 2017-18. They find that 28% of male workers and 22% of female workers are employed in jobs where they could easily telecommute. Roughly 24% of men were employed in critical jobs versus 17% of women. They also examine who is responsible for watching children while schools are closed due to COVID-19. According to the U.S. Census, 70% of children live with both their parents, 21% live with their mother, and only 4% live with their father. Even in married couples, women do more childcare than men, with husbands providing 7.4 hours of childcare per week versus the 13.3 hours wives provide, according to ATUS data. The findings show that women have been disproportionately affected during COVID-19 by the loss of employment and taking on the majority of childcare work. While COVID-19 has negatively impacted women, the pandemic could present opportunities for greater equality in the future, if employers provide more flexibility to work from home and if fathers take on more childcare work. The researchers suggest policies such as government subsidies to replace 80% of employee pay for workers who need to provide childcare during the crisis as one way to promote gender equality.