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For years the US has made domestic policy that has punished women for becoming mothers, and de-incentivized those who want to have as many children as they would like. L ast month, the Brookings Institution updated a June survey on American fertility, concluding that would see a sharp drop in US births. Brookings also cited a study by the left-leaning Guttmacher Institute, a group that tracks data related to reproductive rights and health. As corroborating evidence, the authors of the Brookings report also cited data from the University of Indiana and the Kinsey Institute that indicate that Americans, and particularly those with school age children, are having less sex since the advent of coronavirus restrictions. Declining birth rates in the United States are a longstanding trend, consistent with similar phenomena in nations where women have gained greater economic independence and greater control over their own bodies.


We then consider what needs to change if we want to reinvigorate progress toward gender equality. As Figure 1 below shows, the percent of women employed for pay rose steadily from tomoving from 48 percent to 75 percent of women employed. However, sincedespite some small ups and downs, the percent employed has shown no net increase.

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Indeed, the level—73 percent of women employed—was slightly lower than the figure of 75 percent. Moreover, separate analyses not shown here reveal that the more education a woman has, the more likely she is to be employed, but that what women of all educational levels have in common is that their percent employed has plateaued. Women surpassed men in getting college baccalaureate degrees in the mids.

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More recently, in this century, women edged ahead of men in getting doctoral degrees PhDs, MDs, JDs in law, and other doctorates. Since there are approximately the same of men and women in the population at the young ages where degrees are generally earned, if women were as likely to get degrees as men we would expect the ratio of the of men to women getting such degrees to be 1.

Thus, we can measure progress toward—or beyond—gender equality by change in this ratio. A ratio below 1 means men get more degrees, while a above 1 means women get more. Between andfor baccalaureate degrees this ratio moved from women getting. For doctoral degrees, the ratio of women to men getting degrees went from. Women are now more educated than men in the U. Despite the fact that women now get more baccalaureate and doctoral degrees than men, there are still many lucrative fields, for example engineering and computer science, that remain male bastions because fewer women than men major in those subjects.

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Fields of study are still quite segregated by gender. A useful measure of the level of segregation in fields of study for any given year is the index of dissimilarity, which, roughly speaking, shows what percent of men or women would need to change majors to achieve complete integration, meaning that each field would have the same percent women as women constitute of graduates of all fields combined. Using this index, and dividing all fields into 17our analysis shows that for baccalaureate degrees, 47 percent of women or men would have had to change fields to integrate them inand this declined to 28 percent by The partial integration occurred as fewer women majored in some traditionally female fields, such as education, English, and sociology, and more women graduated in traditionally male fields such as business, ing, marketing, and biology.

However, there has been no further desegregation of fields of study for baccalaureate degrees since ; in fact, the segregation index has increased a few points since then.

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For doctoral degrees, the index moved from 35 percent to a low of 18 percent inin large part from the large increase of women getting MDs and JDs, but there has been no further integration since. Thus, desegregation for both baccalaureate and doctoral degrees has been substantial, but has been stalled for approximately 20 years, since before the turn of the 21st century. Partly because of the segregation of college majors, and for a host of other reasons, men and women are distributed very differently across occupations.

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But, starting in the s, many women, especially those with college degrees, entered traditionally male managerial and professional jobs such as middle management, ing, medicine, law, academia, pharmacy, and the clergy.

Women without college degrees made fewer inro into the blue-collar jobs that men without degrees have traditionally worked in such as carpentry, plumbing, and auto and steel manufacturing.

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We used the same segregation index described above to quantify how much occupations have desegregated since We found that the percent of men or women who would have to move occupations to produce integration defined by women constituting the same percent of each job as they are of the employed workforce as a whole went from 60 percent in to 42 percent in But, whereas segregation dropped by 12 percentage points in the year period afterthe drop in the much longer year period from to was a much smaller 5 points.

Thus, the progress women have made in desegregating occupations has not stalled, but it has slowed severely, and it is a long way from the 0 that would imply complete integration of fields.

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In the s women made about 60 percent what men did. After this rose dramatically to 74 percent by The percent has continued to rise since then, so that, bywomen earned 83 percent what men did at the median. Progress since has been at a much slower pace than in the 80s, the decade in which women gained most on men; the rise in percentage points was more in the single year period of the s than it was in the 28 years from to Clearly, progress toward equal pay has slowed down, but it has not stopped.

In other analyses not shown here, we calculated what percent women at the 10th percentile of their distribution make of the earnings of men at their 10th percentile, and we did the same for the 90th percentile. What would be necessary for further progress in all the areas where the movement toward equality has slowed or stalled—employment, desegregation of fields of study and jobs, and the gender pay gap?

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A new push toward gender equality requires changes in both institutional policies by employers or government and culture values, beliefs, and preferences. The two can reinforce each other, with each having effects on both the supply and demand side of labor markets. Several kinds of institutional changes by government or employers would encourage gender equality. Publicly supported child care would especially increase the employment of women whose potential earnings are low enough that, after they pay for child care from their earnings, too little is left to make the jobs they can get worth taking.

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The segregation of jobs and the sex gap in pay would be decreased by strong state enforcement of anti-discrimination policies and mandated or voluntary adoption by employers of tools to reduce the gender bias, subtle or explicit, that sometimes inflicts hiring, promotion, and the setting of pay differences within jobs. Other policies that could reduce gender segregation of jobs and the pay gap include: state mandated or voluntary employer policies that provide parental leave; flexible movement between full- and part-time work while staying on career ladders; and choice about which hours of the day to work.

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These policies could help couples wanting a gender-egalitarian division of labor to coordinate paid work and care work at home. Thus, the pay gap could be reduced by reducing job segregation, as discussed above. Another route to reducing the between-occupation part of the gender pay gap is to make policy changes that remove gender bias from decisions about pay differences between predominantly male and female occupations. Research shows that predominantly female jobs have systematically lower pay than predominantly male jobs that entail different tasks but require the same amount of education.

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It appears that employers have perhaps unconsciously taken the gender composition of jobs into when setting wages. Under current U. Proponents of this type of between-job pay equity never succeeded in attempts to get the courts to see these differentials as illegal discrimination, or in getting new legislation passed.

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Addressing this issue with new legislation is important for closing the gender gap in pay. To complement the institutional changes described above, those wanting to continue the gender revolution could usefully promote cultural change.

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Today many accept that girls and women should be able to make nontraditional choices—playing sports, studying math, or aspiring to leadership. If it was more socially acceptable for a husband to work part-time or take time out of employment to care for his children, the gender gap in employment would fall.

Cultural change is also needed be to reduce the strong level of sex segregation in fields of study and in occupations.

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While some of this segregation undoubtedly comes from employer discrimination, it is also buttressed by social forces from childhood through adulthood that shape differences between men and women in which jobs they are confident they can do, and which they find interesting, meaningful, and identity-enhancing.

The cultural and institutional changes of the last 50 years have brought us a gender revolution that has slowed and in some cases stalled. We have the choice to reinvigorate change toward gender equality by seeking deeper cultural and institutional change. Learn more about the series and read published work ». Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen examines the history of women entering the labor force and analyzes both the challenges that remain today and potential solutions to meet those challenges.

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Middle-class incomes have risen modestly in recent decades, and most of any gains in their incomes are the result of more working women. Richard V. Reeves examines how the United States compares to Canada and Mexico in terms of gender equality in politics. June Women have surpassed men in acquiring college degrees, but differences in specific fields of study persist.

Gender segregation exists in employment too. What about the gender pay gap?

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Reinvigorating the gender revolution. About the Authors. England has both a Ph. She received a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and psychology from Whitman College. England is a former editor of the American Sociological Review and former president of the American Sociological Association.

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Despite spending more time at home due to the pandemic, the US is in the midst of a baby bust, not a baby boom.


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In this essay series, Brookings scholars, public officials, and other subject-area experts examine the current state of gender equality years after the 19th Amendment was adopted to the U.


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