Popenoe also cites an increase in the female workforce as a point of tension. Rising from 19 to 59%, the number mothers who worked were seen by Popenoe as an indication of the instability of the family unit. (Popenoe 531) He also cites this figure when he discussed the increase in marital dissolution. Popenoe indicated that the number of children still living with their biological parents by age 17 had fallen from 73% in 1960 to only 56% in 1989. (Popenoe 531)
The decline of the American family, as Popenoe asserts, lies in two main areas: the crumbling of the nuclear family and the decreased stability in childrearing and companionship among American adults. The nuclear family unit, as Popenoe wrote is “the most basic and fundamental unit of the family” – man, wife, child. (Popenoe 539) The breakup of this basic unit then would dismantle the building blocks of natural family function. As the loss of this unit increases, the ability for a society to raise its young decreases. Popenoe claims that the affects of drifting further from the traditional family unit would be felt “for generations to come”.
(Popenoe 540) The rise in crime, increased rates of teenage pregnancy, drug use and the increased numbers of children and adults on government assistance are all attributed to the decline of the American family – according to Popenoe. However, his assertions lacked any empirical support. This issue was taken up by Sharon Houseknecht and Jaya Sastry in 1996. The study conducted by the research team looked at the state of the family unit, and sought to find whether the “decline” that Popenoe described was evident or not.
The model that the research team used was based on Popenoe’s assertion that those family unites that are furthest away from the “traditional” view of family are “more in decline”. The group took samples from four countries, Sweden, the United Stated, former West Germany, and Italy. Looking at non-marital birthrates, divorce rates, crime rates and child-wellbeing, the group found that, according to Popenoe’s model, Sweden had the greatest decline in the family unit – followed by the United States in second.
In the inequality involved in women in the workforce there is a sociological view of how this inequality is categorized: Kinglsey Davis and Wilbert Moore gave sociology the theory of functionalism. This theory states that every society separates its products, its money, and its services on the grounds of job difficulty and relevance to a society, or on the function that a specific job provides more for a society. Due to a job and what gender performs that job function being more important to society or more functional, then society is willing to play the stratification game.
Since these functional jobs and the difference between the assumed capabilities of men or women performing them there is also stratification in monetary reward. Society has a top echelon of jobs which they consider able to be filled only by a man or only by a women: The lower rung of this system includes mostly the feminine persuasion. Functionalism fully believes in the rat race of society and exemplifies it through the power elite system and through gender inequality.
Functionalism states that there are critical jobs, ones so important to society (like saving a life) that the measurement of that person’s importance has to be reflected monetarily. Functionalist expresses inequality through the bases of the nature of the occupational system. As Davis and Moore state, “Social inequality is thus an unconsciously evolved device by which societies insure that the most important positions are conscientiously filled by the more qualified persons”(Baldridge, 158).
For these power elite, their reliance on women maintaining lower level jobs is clear; the contingency exists that without one the other cannot perform. Job importance is not the value system that functionalism advocates it is merely the way in which society reacts to the class system; it is within the paradigm of society that roles are created which pander to the elitism of the top echelon where men are sought to hold high office. For a capitalist society this is especially true.