Unpacking Inequality and Class: Family, Gender and the Reconstruction of Class Barriers
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law
February 3, 2012
New England Law Review, Vol. 45, No. 3, 2011
The changing economy and evolution of political ideas have led to a resurgence of the idea of class in American discourse. Relatively little of that discourse, however, acknowledges the role of greater inequality as a critical force remaking the family along class lines. The political right exploits class resentments in championing "family values" but disavows any effort to link family changes to greater economic inequality rather than individual moral failings. The political left acknowledges economic exploitation but insists on addressing it only within identity categories such as race, gender, or sexual orientation rather than its own force. There is now irrefutable data that the tendency to raise children within two-parent families is a potent marker of class, reinforcing class barriers and dramatically affecting America's human-capital acquisition. Renewed attention to "class" as a category is accordingly long overdue. "Class" refers to categories of social construction more fluid than race, ethnicity, or caste and more fixed than occupation, religion, or party. Class is a product of the allocation of resources, which depends on the family organization to channel investment in children. This Article examines the social construction of class through the lens of gender and family. It examines the growing economic inequality that has rejuvenated interest in the relationship between the economy, gender, divorce, and non-marital births. It concludes that dismantling class barriers will turn on better employment prospects for men, more flexible attitudes toward gender, greater investment in children, and more effective support for families.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 43
Keywords: Inequality, class, family law, non-marital births, divorce
JEL Classification: J12, J13, J14, J15, J16Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: February 6, 2012
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