The reason "gender equality" stalled is because it is an economic impossibility. The reason the average hours worked is so much higher than in the more "sexist" 1960s is because primarily there are more women in the workforce. While immigration too plays a role here, the only significant effect native women have when they enter the labor force in greater numbers is to depress the price of labor. Unlike immigrants, they don't bring in new consumption to help mitigate their wage-depressing effects; the reason real hourly wages peaked in 1973 and have been falling ever since is because that was the year that the number of men younger than 20 and older than 65 leaving the labor force was surpassed by educated, middle-class women entering it.
One-third of working class women have always worked. The change brought by feminism is that now middle class and upper middle class married women work as well. And the more women that work, the more women have to work and the less time women who don't work will have with their husbands who support them, because an INCREASE in the SUPPLY of labor necessitates a DECREASE in the PRICE of labor, demand remaining constant.
And to make matters worse, demand does not remain constant, but actually declines, because a woman who works is statistically much less likely to eventually become a wife and mother, and even when she does, she becomes one several years later and has fewer children. This means that feminism is a structural economic failure as it creates a downward-spiraling vicious circle of three easily identifiable revolutions:
1) The increase in the supply of labor causes wages to go down. This is indisputable in either logical or empirical terms.
2) Female hypergamy, female independence, and opportunity cost reduces the marriage rate and the average birth rate, while increased male work hours and work-related romantic opportunities increases the divorce rate. These connections are all logically sound and readily observable.
3) The reduced birth rate has a negative effect on consumption, and therefore the demand for labor, 20 years before the consequent negative effects on the supply of labor can help balance it out, putting further negative pressure on wage rates. This is also indisputable, both logically and empirically.We moderns think that feminism has never been tried, and that we are so much wiser than the rubes who preceded us. We should consider the possibility that the reason why patriarchal civilizations were so successful...and why matriarchal / feminist civilizations don't exist anywhere for very long*...is that the sort of "gender equality" that is fashionable today is economically, demographically, and politically unsustainable for a society more complex than hunter-gatherer / light agrarian.
Interestingly, while Ms. Coontz' NYT article engages in economically illiterate wage gap mythologizing and predictably calls for more government intervention in the market to make businesses more "family friendly"**, there is an alternative read of Ms. Coontz' monograph. And that is American families have already recognized and are adjusting for the pain of the incongruency between their family model and the dominant economic model (i.e., industrialization):
As late as 1977, two-thirds of Americans believed that it was “much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family.” By 1994, two-thirds of Americans rejected this notion.
But during the second half of the 1990s and first few years of the 2000s, the equality revolution seemed to stall. Between 1994 and 2004, the percentage of Americans preferring the male breadwinner/female homemaker family model actually rose to 40 percent from 34 percent. Between 1997 and 2007, the number of full-time working mothers who said they would prefer to work part time increased to 60 percent from 48 percent. In 1997, a quarter of stay-at-home mothers said full-time work would be ideal. By 2007, only 16 percent of stay-at-home mothers wanted to work full time.
Women’s labor-force participation in the United States also leveled off in the second half of the 1990s, in contrast to its continued increase in most other countries. Gender desegregation of college majors and occupations slowed. And although single mothers continued to increase their hours of paid labor, there was a significant jump in the percentage of married women, especially married women with infants, who left the labor force. By 2004, a smaller percentage of married women with children under 3 were in the labor force than in 1993. [emphases mine]I personally would like to see a re-orientation away from the Industrial Revolution-era "breadwinner" family model that pulls men and fathers out of the home and leaves women and wives (or paid substitutes) to look after the home and children. Our culture is paying a huge price for removing the father from the family home and reducing his provision to that of merely financial. But barring some significant, revolutionary changes in how goods are produced (the knowledge economy doesn't seem to be sufficient), I don't see the breadwinner-homemaker family model changing anytime soon.
That is not to say that I think men killing themselves in the workplace and bored, idle, frustrated, envious women stuck at home is a great idea. Women were meant to labor so as to help their men support a household and multiply the species. A clear-eyed read of the Bible makes this clear. The challenge I think will be to (re?)establish men's spheres and women's spheres of work and labor in a way that are complementary...where women don't appreciably compete with men (and thus drive down their wages/make them ineligible as mates to naturally hypergamic women) and women aren't left with raising the next generation all alone.
* Yes I know about the Mosuo. I suspect there is a reason why they only number 40,000. They don't have the dynamism to get any larger, or adequately compete against other challengers for resources.
** Making the workplace "family friendly" is an activist's code phrase for using social pressure and / or government force to reshape the workplace in ways more accommodative to choice mothers. In effect, businesses are required to subsidize the family choices of a politically active segment of their employees. This subsidy isn't free: the costs are socialized to other employees (in the form of lower wages and longer working hours taking up the workload left behind by the family-policy slacker) and by customers.