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The ideal job-seeker norm: unemployment and marital privileges in the professional middle-class

Rao, Aliya Hamid ORCID: 0000-0003-0674-4206 (2021) The ideal job-seeker norm: unemployment and marital privileges in the professional middle-class. Journal of Marriage and Family, 83 (4). 1038 - 1057. ISSN 0022-2445

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Identification Number: 10.1111/jomf.12748


Objective: To understand how heterosexual US married parents interpret and respond to a spouse's unemployment and subsequent job-searching. Background: The pervasiveness of employment uncertainty, and unemployment, may propel families to embrace gender egalitarian norms. Quantitative research finds that this possibility is not borne out. Qualitative research has sought to illuminate mechanisms as to how gender norms persist even during a time that is optimal for dismantling them, but these mechanisms remain unclear. Method: Seventy-two in-depth interviews were conducted with a nonrandom sample of heterosexual, professional, dual-earner, married, unemployed women, men, and their spouses in the United States. Follow-up interviews were conducted with 35 participants. Intensive family observations were conducted with four families, two of unemployed men, and two of unemployed women. Results: Unemployed women, men, and spouses acknowledge that a set of time-intensive activities are key for reemployment (the ideal job-seeker norm). Couples with unemployed men direct resources such as time, space, and even money to facilitate unemployed men's compliance with the ideal job-seeker norm. Couples downplay the importance of women's reemployment and do not direct similar resources to help unemployed women job-search. Conclusion: Couples preserve a traditional gender status quo, often in defiance of material realities, by actively maintaining men's position at the helm of paid work and women's at unpaid work. Implications: Linking unemployment and job-seeking with the institution of heterosexual marriage reveals novel insights into social and marital processes shaping job-seeking.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Author
Divisions: Methodology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Date Deposited: 21 Jan 2021 11:42
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2024 07:54

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