, Volume 52, Issue 6, pp 1797–1823

Patriarchy, Power, and Pay: The Transformation of American Families, 1800–2015


DOI: 10.1007/s13524-015-0440-z

Cite this article as:
Ruggles, S. Demography (2015) 52: 1797. doi:10.1007/s13524-015-0440-z


This article proposes explanations for the transformation of American families over the past two centuries. I describe the impact on families of the rise of male wage labor beginning in the nineteenth century and the rise of female wage labor in the twentieth century. I then examine the effects of decline in wage labor opportunities for young men and women during the past four decades. I present new estimates of a precipitous decline in the relative income of young men and assess its implications for the decline for marriage. Finally, I discuss explanations for the deterioration of economic opportunity and speculate on the impact of technological change on the future of work and families.


MarriageFamilyWage laborRelative income

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© Population Association of America 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Minnesota Population CenterUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA