Economic inequality and the stalled progress toward gender equality

Project Summary:

Women’s participation in the formal economy increased for decades after the 1960s but stalled in the late 1990s. Researchers aren’t sure why this happened, but professors Cohen and Kleykamp propose one possible answer: rising inequality. As income inequality has increased, the pay-off to investing in children has increased as well, making it more attractive to have one parent stay at home—usually the mother. Rising work hours among women has had a large effect on economic growth. U.S. gross domestic product in 2012 would have been 11 percent lower if not for the rising working hours of women. If Cohen and Kleykamp’s hypothesis is right, then rising inequality has held back women’s entrance into the labor market and significantly slowed down American economic growth.


Meredith Kleykamp is associate professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park, and director of the Center for Research on Military Organization. She is also a faculty associate of the Maryland Population Research Center (MPRC). Prior to joining the Maryland faculty in 2010, she was an assistant professor at the University of Kansas, and previously taught at the United States Military Academy (West Point). She received a Ph.D. from Princeton University, and a B.A. in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin.

Her research focuses on people's work lives—their jobs, earnings, and careers. Kleykamp’s past and current research examines the connections between the labor market and three specific institutions: the military, prison, and unions. She explores how these institutions influence patterns of employment and how each institution's influence varies along racial, ethnic, class, and gender lines.