Women are entering the labor force in increasing numbers, and the income gap between male and female workers has been steadily declining. So why do recent studies focus on the perpetuation of gender inequality and not on its decline?
To probe deeper into the subject, Francine Blau, Mary Brinton, and David Grusky of Cornell University's Center for the Study of Inequality have developed a debate and lecture series to examine the ongoing decline, and to attempt to predict future trends in gender inequality. They do not suggest that scholars should be overly impressed with the ongoing declines - one of the questions they will address is whether the declines are happening too slowly, and if so, why. The series will begin with a debate between Robert Max Jackson of New York University and Paula England of the University of Pennsylvania. Jackson will argue that gender disparities are declining primarily because of institutional changes that establish equal treatment. England will counter that even if labor market inequality in hiring and promotion declines, gender inequality will persist due to entrenched divisions of domestic responsibilities. The debate will be followed by six weekly lectures. The competing theories that emerge from the debate and conference will be compiled in a book,The Declining Significance of Gender?, which will be submitted for publication to the Russell Sage Foundation. The opening chapter, co-authored by Blau, Brinton, and Grusky, will revisit the larger issues in light of the arguments and analyses of the contributors.