Why No One Can “Have It All” and Why That Matters for Everyone1

Kathleen Gerson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    New trends in the organization of economic and private life have added a major wrinkle to the still unfolding gender revolution. The decline of the standard employment relationship has eroded the ability of salaried and wage-earning men to support a family household, while the decline of permanent, heterosexual marriage has undermined the traditional gender bargain that encouraged most women to provide unpaid caregiving in exchange for a partner's financial support. These widespread social shifts have created new economic insecurities and intensified work–family conflicts. Drawing on 120 in-depth interviews with a diverse group of mid-life adults, I examine how workers and parents are navigating these new conflicts and insecurities. Four work-care strategies are emerging, all of which involve significant trade-offs. Among the four patterns, however, people are most satisfied with an egalitarian strategy. A substantial proportion in the other groups, which include traditional couples, childless singles, and unequal dual-earners, also express a preference for a more egalitarian sharing of work and care, although the preference for equality varies by gender. Effective social policy thus needs to insure that everyone—including people of all genders, class positions, and family circumstances—has the opportunity to forge a more equal, blended, and secure division of work and caregiving.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1423-1431
    Number of pages9
    JournalSociological Forum
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Dec 2023


    • breadwinning
    • caregiving
    • family
    • gender
    • new economy
    • work

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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