Red v. Blue Lives

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We have argued that family life has been reorganized around two different models: a blue family system that emphasizes emotional maturity and financial independence as the sine qua non of responsible family formation versus a red model that continues to steer sexuality into marriage, and therefore produces family formation at younger ages. While the tensions between the red and blue models over sex, gays and abortion have defined the culture wars, less visible in this conflict has been the remaking of the relationship between work and family. For classic blue families, the twenties have been remade as a time of exploration and human capital acquisition while the thirties and forties become the time for family. In this system, even traditional couples accept women's independence, and use the human capital acquired in the twenties to refashion work experiences and the relationship between home and market, work and leisure. For red families, however, early family life practically requires two incomes for young couples more likely to be committed to traditional gender expectations. The result has been a largely unheralded shift in women's roles, greater intrafamily tensions than in blue families, and greater movement in and out of the labor market - and in and out of marriage - than in other parts of the country. This presentation will examine the mismatch between the economics and biology of work and family.

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