The Breakup of the Sex-Role Caste System

  • Barbara R. Bergmann


The ancient system of sex roles, under which men were assigned a monopoly of access to money and the public sphere, and mature women were restricted to the home, came under severe attack over the course of the last century and a half in most developed countries. The social and economic forces behind the release of women from obligatory domesticity are far from spent; they continue to reinforce each other and grow stronger. An economic cataclysm or a wave of religious fanaticism such as occurred in Iran and Afghanistan could bring a regression, but barring such upheavals, women will not retreat back into domesticity. On the contrary, the emergence of women into the money economy and into larger roles in the society will probably go further, both in the developed and in the developing countries.


Labor Market Child Care Single Mother Child Support Payment Mature Woman 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 3.
    See Howard V. Hayghe, “Developments in Women’s Labor Force Participation,” Monthly Labor Review (September 1997): 41–46, table 1.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    See Heidi I. Hartmann, “The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: Towards a More Progressive Union,” in Lydia Sargent (ed.), Women and Revolution (Boston: South End Press, 1979).Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    See Alice Kessler-Harris, Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    On relations between husbands and wives, see Carl N. Degler, At Odds: Women and the Family in America from the Revolution to the Present (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    The originator of this argument, cited by many economists, is Gary S. Becker. However Becker himself appears to be undecided as to the actual importance of sex discrimination. See The Economics of Discrimination (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957).Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    See Solomon Polachek, “Occupational Self-Selection: A Human Capital Approach to Sex Differrences in Occupational Structure,” Review of Economics and Statistics 63, 1 (February 1981): 60–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. For a refutation, see Paula England, “The Failure of Human Capital Theory to Explain Occupational Sex Segregation,” Journal of Human Resources 17, 3 (summer 1982): 358–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 9.
    National Center for Health Statistics, “New CDC Report Shows Teen Birth Rate Hits Record Low,” July 24, 2001.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Timothy S. Grall, “Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2001, ” Current Population Reports P60–225, U.S. Census Bureau, October 2003.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Barbara R. Bergmann 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara R. Bergmann

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations