Societal Upheavals and Family Formation


Structural Forces and Family Change

This chapter focuses on the way the structure of contemporary society shapes families and the individuals within them. The authors examine two macrosocial “earthquakes” and their effects on families: the structural transformation of the economy and new immigration.

I. Structural Transformation of the Economy and Families Two fundamental turning points in human history have revolutionized human life: the Neolithic revolution and the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution has had three phases. Each phase has had a major implications for the economy and families.

A. The interrelated Forces Transforming the U.S. Several powerful forces are presently converging in society, resulting in an economic transformation with profound effects on families.

1. The New Technologies Based on Microelectronics Computer chip technology is transforming the U.S. into a s service/information economy.

2. The Globalization of the Economy The decline in U.S.. status as an industrial giant with increasing competition from abroad has resulted in profit loss. The corporate strategy has been to shut down or reduce labor costs, thus dislocating workers, families, and communities.

3. Capital Flight The term “capital flight” refers to the investment choices that involve the movement of corporate monies from one investment to another. a. Overseas Investment by U.S. Firms Cheap and mostly non-unionized labor overseas has made industrial relocation profitable. b. Relocation of Business “Runaway shops” have been relocated in other countries and in other localities within the U.S. in search of lower costs and cheaper labor. Adverse effects are felt in the deserted communities and the new “boom” towns. c. Mergers and Takeovers negative effects of megamergers include the weakening of competition, increasing corporate power, and diminishing jobs.

4. From Manufacturing to Services manufacturing is no longer dominant, with a steady decline in “sunset” industry. “Sunrise” industries produce high-tech products in work settings that tend to be low-paying and non-unionized. Some industries have increased output, but human labor has been replaced by automation. The major change is in the growth of the service sector.

B. The Consequences of the Economic Transformation for Families 1. The Shrinking Middle-Class The trend of mobility into the middle-class after World War II peaked in 1973. Declining levels of affluence, or stagnation have followed. a. Increasing Cost of a New Car The prices of cars have risen faster than incomes for the past two decades. b Increasing Cost of Housing the proportion of people who own homes has declined since 1980. Attaining the goal of home ownership is especially difficult for single women and racial ethnic minorities. c. College Education Rising costs of education have made this route to middle class status less attainable for the children of the middle and lower classes.

2. coping Strategies The lowering of living standards for many families has led to the following coping strategies:

a. Dual-Earner Families A shift toward two-earner families is a necessity to maintain adequate lifestyles. Women’s work in underpaid, eve as family expenses increase.

b. Increased Work Load In 1989 the average fully employed U.S. worker worked 138 hours more than in 1969.

c. Home Based Work An increasing number of women are working for pay in their homes in clerical and domestic types of job. There are mixed consequences resulting form this phenomenon. It allows for flexibility and a certain degree of autonomy. However, pay is typically low and worker isolation diminishes the possibility of collective action.

d. Increased Debt Consumer installment debt nearly doubled between 1984 and 1994

3. What Does it Mean to Move Down from the Middle-Class? Downward mobility in the U.S. involves the loss of economic resources as well as diminished self-worth. Individuals who experience downward mobility are often blamed for their personal failures. Negative consequences include stress, marital tension, depression, and high levels of alcohol consumption.

4. The Working Poor The greatest increase in the number of poor since 1979 has been among the working poor. the factors responsible for this increase are declining wages, the rising number of working female heads of households, and a low minimum wage. 5. The New Poor Millions of blue collar workers have been displaced from their factory jobs. Many found new employment often at lower wages. The 15% who didn’t find new employment constitute the “new poor.”

C. Shifting Family Forms Family composition and family dynamics are intertwined with social forces. Given the magnitude of the economic transformation, it is not surprising that family forms are changing.

Case Study: The Shift from the “Modern Family” to the “Post Modern Family.” Judith Stacey documents the difficulties working-class families face. Working0class families adapted to economic uncertainty and domestic upheavals by creatively organizing families in new ways.


The new immigration is challenging the cultural hegemony of the White European tradition, creating incredible diversity in race, ethnicity, language, and culture. The abandonment of the quota system in 1965 encouraged a new wave of immigration unlike previous waves. Now 90% of immigrants are from non-European countries. The new migrants have settled in diverse geographical locations, although Southern California has been uniquely affected. Problems related to language diversity have plagued the state’s institutions.

A. Demographic trends and increasing Diversity The U.S. is shifting from an Anglo-White society rooted in western culture to a society with three large racial ethnic minorities; African American, Latino, and Asian.

1. Latinos This group varies due to different societies of origin and social class. They are similar in that they speak Spanish, are overwhelmingly Catholic, and tend to live in urban areas. Their families are larger than the U.S. average and kin networks are important.

2. Asians Although Asian-Americans are often characterized as the “model minority,” they vary widely by ethnicity. They also vary by education and social class. The number of divorces is lower among these groups than the American population as a whole, and marital assimilation is declining.

B. Consequences of the New Immigration 1. The reaction of the hosts to the new immigrants New immigrants have always been seen as a threat to those already in place. Common beliefs are that immigrants will drive down wages and that they are a drain on society’s resources.

2. Demythologizing immigration Evidence does not support common fears about immigrants. Studies show that immigrants actually create more jobs than they fill. Moreover, immigrants generate more in taxes paid than they cost in services received.

3. Immigration and Agency Immigration, when freely chosen, is an act of social agency. Immigrants adapt to difficult circumstances in many ways, such as pooling family resources and relying on networks of friends and relatives.

C. The Effects of Immigration on Immigrant Families. 1. Ethnic Identity: The U.S. as Cultural Melting Pot? A possible consequence of migration is the loss of ethnic identity in the new society. The U.S. has always pressured immigrants to assimilate. The current wave of immigrants may find assimilation more difficult due to racism, the conservative political climate, and recent economic transformations.

2. The Effects of Immigration on Family Dynamics a. Case Study: The Reconstruction of Gender Relations Among Mexican Immigrant Men and Women Hondagneu-Sotelo’s study shows how immigration resulted in more egalitarian gender relations between immigrant husbands and wives. Change is attributed to restructured family arrangements precipitated by the immigration proceeds rather than assimilation to U.S. cultural values.

b. Case Study: Migration and Vietnamese American Women: Remaking Gender Kibria finds that migration has had a contradictory impact on the status of Vietnamese immigrant women. While Vietnamese immigrant men and women became more equal in the U.S., women’s continued allegiance to the traditional Vietnamese family system has limited their status gains.


The final stage of the Industrial Revolution is marked by
a.  the application of steam power to mining, manufacturing, and transportation.
b.  the importation of immigrant labor to work in the U.S. factory system.
c.  technological breakthrough in areas such as ocmputers, biotechnology, and
    media transmission.
d.  significant inventions such as plastics, and the use of electircity and oil as
    energy sources.

All of the following are forms of capital flight except
a.  mergers.
b.  overseas investment.
c.  pay concessions from workers.
d.  plant relocation within the U.S.

According to the text, what group experienced a decline in median wages between 1973
and 1992?
a.  Black families
b.  Hispanic families.
c.  Yound families
d.  All of the above.

According to the text, the main increase in the number of poor is among
a.  deskilled microelectronic workers.
b.  one-earner middle-class families.
c.  the working poor.
d.  unemployed blue collar workers.

Newman makes all the following observations about middle-class families confronted 
with downward mobility except
a.  families often try to camouflage their deteriorating situation.
b.  mny members o these families experience depression.
c.  workers who experience downward mobility are the least competent
    employees in their organizations.
d.  in some families downward mobility results in physical abuse and alcoholism.

Women are located disproportionately in
a.  part-time work.
b.  home-based work.
c.  tempoarary work.
d.  all of the above.

Research suggests taht the families of displaced breadwinners
a.  usually find replacement jobs within 3 months.
b.  are negatively impacted by mental and physical problems.
c.  usually try to adapt without sending their spouses out to work.
d.  have more successful coping strategies than families among the owrking poor.

What percentage of recent immigrants are from non-European countries?
a.  10%
b.  50%
c.  75%
d.  90%

Kibria found in her study of immigrant Vietnamese families that
a.  husbands and woves became more equal after migration to the U.S.
b.  gender inequality became more extreme than had been the case in Vietnam.
c.  in geneeral, men gained prestige in the family due to their ability to find high status work in the U.S.
d.  none of the above.

This page has been visited times.


Other Chapter Reviews: