American families are far more diverse and complex today than they were 50 years ago. As ideas about marriage, divorce, and remarriage have changed, so too have our understandings about cohabitation, childbearing, parenting, and the transition to adulthood. Americans of all socioeconomic backgrounds have witnessed changes in the nature of family life, but as this book reveals, these changes play out in very different ways for the wealthy or well off than they do for the poor.
Social Class and Changing Families in an Unequal America offers an up-to-the-moment assessment of the condition of the family in an era of growing inequality. Highlighting unique aspects of family behavior, it reveals the degree to which families' varying experiences are shaped by social class. This book offers a much needed assessment of contemporary family life amid the turbulent economic changes in the United States.
About the authors
Marcia J. Carlson is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Paula England is Professor of Sociology at Stanford University.
"Marcia J. Carlson and Paula England have compiled and edited a number of important chapters that explore changing family patterns and how they adapt to a more unequal America in their book Social Class and Changing Families in an Unequal America . . . In sum, Marcia J. Carlson and Paula England have assembled an interesting and insightful book that looks at the issues at the heart of the American family. The chapters in this book weave a story about the American family that has changed drastically in the past century, acknowledging that not all the changes are good, but that the future is bright for families if something can be done about the educational and financial gap between poor families and those families that inhabit the upper strata of our society . . . Carlson and England's book indicates that the future of the American family is uncertain, but with effective policies and open-minded discussion on how to cure the inequalities that exist in education and financial resources, American families can recover, regaining their position as the bedrock of American society."
—Stephen Briles, Journal of Youth and Adolescence
"Social Class and Changing Families in an Unequal America is a valuable resource for family scholars who want to catch up with their favorite research topics quickly and enjoyably, for students just learning about the most important research on the Amrican family, and for researchers interested in the efforts of economic and social change on contemporary family life. I enjoyed reading it and intend to use it in my family course next year. I recommend the book highly."
—Linda J. Waite, American Journal of Sociology
"In Social Class and Changing Families in an Unequal America, Marcia Carlson and Paula England have assembled a valuable collection of writings by prominent sociologists about the dramatic changes that have occurred within American families over the last sixty years and how families are configured differently across the socioeconomic hierarchy . . . [T]his book would make an excellent text for both advanced undergraduate and graduate courses. Seasoned family scholars will recognize many (but not all) of the insights proffered, yet will find the volume stimulating for its potential to spark new questions."
—Molly A. Martin, Contemporary Sociology
"Recent decades have seen dramatic changes in U.S. families, including patterns of marriage, childbearing and the like. This excellent book brings together top scholars to discuss the central role of social class in such changes and is a must-read among family scholars, students, and policymakers interested in understanding the under-studied role of class in contemporary family change."
—Rachel Dunifon, Cornell University
"Social Class and Changing Families in an Unequal America is arguably the best collection of articles on social class differences in romantic partnering and parenting that exists today. This book focuses on the fascinating question of why family change over the past half century has been so different at the top, bottom, and middle of the income distribution. Well educated women have fewer children than they want while those with little education have many unintended births and more children than they want. Marriage and childbearing go hand in hand at the top of the income distribution but among low and middle income groups, children are born to parents who do not marry and often are no longer together by the time a child reaches school age. The economic opportunities and the life chances of the next generation may be at risk. Understanding the family changes that this volume illuminates is essential to combating that risk and designing effective public policy."
—Suzanne Bianchi, University of California, Los Angeles
"In the early 1960s, most children grew up in two-parent families with a single breadwinner. Today, an increasing percentage of children grow up in affluent families where both parents are college graduates working in high-prestige occupations; at the other end, an increasing percentage of children grow up in poverty in single-mother families with a less-educated, unstably-employed, never-married mother and siblings who have different fathers. In this volume, the nation's leading family demographers thoughtfully analyze the causes and consequences of the increased complexity and increased inequality of family types over the last 50 years."
—Sheldon Danziger, University of Michigan