“Gender Deviance” Revisited: An Interview with Daniel Schneider, Winner of the 2012 OOW Award for Best Paper by a Grad Student

Daniel Schneider received his PhD in Sociology and Social Policy from Princeton University in 2012.  He is currently a Robert Wood Johnson Postdoctoral Scholar in Health Policy Research at UC-Berkeley/UCSF.  Daniel’s paper, “Gender Deviance and Household Work: The Role of Occupation,” won the 2012 James D. Thompson Award from the Organizations, Occupations, and Work section of the American Sociological Association and was recently published in the American Journal of Sociology. The following is the text of an interview recently conducted with Daniel by Kate Kellogg, an Associate Professor of Organization Studies at MIT.  

Kate Kellogg: What are your general research interests, and what led you to explore the specific question of gender deviance?

Daniel Schneider: My research is at the intersection of family and inequality. My work looks at how inequality structures the formation of families and how gender inequalities then play out within those families. So, for instance, some of my work has looked at how differentials in wealth by race and education shape differential entry into marriage. But, other research looks at how families then perpetuate inequality and serve as sites for unequal practices.

This work taps into that second vein, looking at how economic resources and engagement in the market economy matters differently for men and women in the household. More specifically, this project engages with an existing literature on how men’s and women’s relative economic resources shape housework time.

Kate Kellogg: Can you say a little bit about the behind-the-scenes’ trials and tribulations of your research process?

Daniel Schneider: This is a paper was very much born out of what I was doing and thinking about as a student in the Princeton sociology graduate program. In my second year, I took a course with Viviana Zelizer on economic sociology. Her syllabus is focused not only on firms and organizations but also on families, households – intimate economies, but by no means inconsequential ones.

As part of that we read some of the research on gender and housework. Julie Brines has a well-known 1994 AJS article where she looks at whether the relationship between income share and housework time is linear for both men and women, as might be predicted by bargaining theory, or whether there is some non-linearity, some suggestion that perhaps when women out earn their husbands and so break the male-breadwinner norm, men might actually do less housework or women might do more. So, instead of a bargaining process resulting in women doing less and men more housework, women may do more housework as a way to perform femininity and reaffirm gendered expectations and vice versa for men.

Turns out that this a debate. I was interested and I started reading the other papers in this line of research and there are really arguments on both sides around income share issue. In this same course and for my general exams later, I read other work, including Christine Williams on gendered work and gendered occupations.

And it’s really from reading these related but somewhat separate literatures that I got the idea to try to move past the focus on income share because we know that there are other ways in which work in the economy has gendered meanings and, potentially, gendered impacts. So, this paper is trying to put together these two insights and to argue that occupation could be a better way to think about gender deviance because it is more visible to outsiders than income share and perhaps less subject to year to year volatility.

Kate Kellogg: How would you describe your general method? Were there any challenges or disadvantages associated with using this method that were specific to your study?

Daniel Schneider: I drew on two data sets that contain good information on housework, the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) and the American Time Use Study (ATUS).  My general approach is to look at the estimates that men to women provide of the amount of time spent on housework that these studies give you and to see if that’s a function of engagement in gender-atypical occupations. Does it matter for your housework time if are a woman working in an occupation that is male typed or a man in a female-typed occupation?

In some ways, the challenge comes in the operationalization of this concept of female typed and male typed work. Qualitative work suggests that occupations do have gendered associations; we think of some occupations as being female typed or male typed. But how do you measure that in quantitative data? I ended up looking at the gender composition of each occupation and arguing that we can identify female typed occupations by the percent of workers in those occupations that are female and male typed work by percent of workers that are male. I don’t think that is a bad way to do it. But it is asking us to make a leap, to accept that the gendered nature of work can be captured by this compositional measure.

Kate Kellogg: To you, what was the most interesting finding that emerged from your study? Or, what else could you have focused on but did not?

Daniel Schneider: There are a couple of things I would have liked to do that I didn’t get to for space. We might expect that this kind of compensatory gender display would be more common among people with more gender-traditional attitudes, but a basic test of that interaction didn’t turn that up and that’s not an uncommon result in this literature, which seems surprising and worth additional investigation.

Similarly, this work is focused on married couples because this line of literature has done that. But, there is no real reason that has to be the case when we move away from relative earnings. Occupation could shape the kind of housework single people, non-heterosexual couples do

Kate Kellogg: Do you plan on conducting any future research on gender deviance?

Daniel Schneider: I’m excited about some work I am doing with Judith Treas at Irvine and Chris Marcum at Rand. A lot of the work on gender deviance has taken a quantitative approach based on survey data.  But, the underlying theory comes out of Goffman and is micro-interactional and all about co-presence and performance. We are trying to leverage the ATUS data to bring audience back into this study of performance. We are looking at how the presence of others, something that is recorded in this data, shapes men’s and women’s housework time.  More specifically, we are looking at whether women do more of their female typed housework in front of other people than do men and whether men do a larger share of their male-typed housework in front of others than do women. We find some results that are supportive but also some results that suggest that what is really going on could be socialization.

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