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19 - Gender differences in attainment across generations from a historical perspective

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 October 2014

Anne McMunn
University College London
Elizabeth Webb
University College London
Mel Bartley
University of California, Los Angeles
David Blane
Imperial College London
Gopal Netuveli
University of East London
Ingrid Schoon
Institute of Education, University of London
Jacquelynne S. Eccles
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
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This chapter examines gender differences in socioeconomic attainment and wellbeing among English men and women born in the first half of the 20th century using the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). We find a fairly traditional picture of gender difference. Women’s attainment in education and occupational class was significantly and substantially lower than that of men, and there was no evidence of a decrease in these gender differences with each subsequent birth cohort. A steadily decreasing gender differential was seen in the number of years men and women spent in paid work, however. Relationships between family forms and socioeconomic attainment ran in opposite directions for men and women. Non-normative family forms, such as never having lived with a spouse/partner or not having children, were associated with higher socioeconomic attainment for women, but lower socioeconomic attainment for men. Results suggest that recent reductions seen in gender inequality have been not so much a gentle shift over the course of the century, but the result of relatively swift and dramatic social change. For the cohorts of men and women who represent our current ageing population, gender inequality in education and occupation was deeply entrenched.

Gender Differences in Aspirations and Attainment
A Life Course Perspective
, pp. 429 - 455
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2014

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