Friday, September 23, 2005

Do Gen Xers Want Mom Home More Than Boomers Do?

In a comment on “Good News from New Orleans,” KC wrote:

I ask that you address the Millennium generation's divergence from feminist protocol of the 70's, 80's and 90's. It is my observation that many people in my generation, despite our youth, desire to work in the "real world" for a limited period of time. Eventually, many of us, women in particular, want to return to the home, with multiple children and live the life of an at-home mom. Some of us, myself included, would prefer the option of working from home (God bless the freedom of broadband technology), but most importantly to be at home. Thoughts...

I don’t have the data to answer your excellent question about the Millennial generation. I did take stab at asking about Gen X vs. the Baby Boomers, though. The General Social Survey, the annual survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center, had a special module in 1996 (when the oldest Millennials were only 15) on relationships. The respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with this statement:

It is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family.

I compared core Boomers, who were 40 to 50 years old that year, with core Gen Xers, who were 20 to 30 then. Comparing men to women within each group shows that while most member of each generation take a liberal (disagreeing) position on this question, the Xers tended to be more liberal than Boomers. 2/3rds of the Boomers disagreed with the statement, whereas 3/4ths of the Xers disagreed. Men and women answered about the same way, though the women were more likely to disagree strongly. Comparing married and not married people in each generation yields a similar result – the younger generation is a bit more liberal on this question.

I will look for data on the next generation.


Anonymous said...

I don't think you've really answered the question. Many at-home mothers would not want to say that families are all better off if moms are at home. You can believe that more than one arrangement works and still prefer to raise your kids yourself.

Also, how do the late or just past Boomers compare to women in their 20's today?

Gruntled said...

I think it is true that most Americans are more willing to live and let live about family arrangements than they used to be -- but Gen Xers do it more so. And I think you are right that there is not contradiction between wanting to be an at-home mom and being unwilling to say that society would be better off if most mothers made the same choice.

I have to add, though, that I think that many young women who have not had children yet are more likely to support the working-mom option as equally good than they will when they actually have children of their own.

Anonymous said...

I would agree and I think that the statement from the survey you found was particularly old-fashioned. It did not leave open the option for a father to stay home. It suggested that women should focus on homemaking as opposed to child rearing and it didn't leave open the possibility that women might do different things at different times in their lives.

I'd like to see how the generations compare on questions like:
Do children benefit from having an at-home parent? Would you like to stay home with your children when they are little?