Unpacking Inequality and Class: Family, Gender and the Reconstruction of Class Barriers

43 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2012

See all articles by June Carbone

June Carbone

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law

Date Written: February 3, 2012


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.

Keywords: Inequality, class, family law, non-marital births, divorce

JEL Classification: J12, J13, J14, J15, J16

Suggested Citation

Carbone, June, Unpacking Inequality and Class: Family, Gender and the Reconstruction of Class Barriers (February 3, 2012). New England Law Review, Vol. 45, No. 3, 2011, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1998916

June Carbone (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - School of Law ( email )

229-19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

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