Fasang, A.E., Aisenbrey, S., Uncovering Social Stratification: Intersectional Inequalities in Work and Family Life Courses by Gender and Race, Social Forces, Volume 101, Issue 2, December 2022, Pages 575–605

Enduring and accumulated advantages and disadvantages in work and family lives remain invisible in studies focusing on single outcomes. Further, single outcome studies tend to conflate labor market inequalities related to gender, race, and family situation. We combine an intersectional and quantitative life course perspective to analyze parallel work and family lives for Black and White men and women aged 22–44. Results using sequence analysis and data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79) show that White men enjoy privileged opportunities to combine work and family life and elicit specific gendered and racialized constraints for Black men and women and White women. Black women experience the strongest interdependence between work and family life: events in their work lives constrain and condition their family lives and vice versa. For Black men, stable partnerships and career success mutually support and sustain each other over the life course. In contrast, for Black women, occupational success goes along with the absence of stable partnerships. Precarious and unstable employment is associated with early single parenthood for all groups supporting instability spillovers between life domains that are most prevalent among Black women, followed by Black men. The findings highlight a sizeable group of resourceful Black single mothers who hold stable middle-class jobs and have often gone unnoticed in previous research. We conclude that economic interventions to equalize opportunities in education, employment, and earnings, particularly early in life, are more promising for reducing intersectional inequalities in work-family life courses than attempting to intervene in family lives.