Characteristics of the Couples
Of the men we interviewed, the mean age was thirty-three, of the women, thirty-one. Forty-seven percent had one child, 38 percent had two, and 15 percent had three; no couple had more than three. As a whole, those we interviewed were disproportionately middle class. Twelve percent were blue-collar workers (craft workers, operatives, service workers), 17 percent clerical and sales, 25 percent managers and administrators, 46 percent professional and technical workers. (According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the United States as a whole in 1982, 44 percent were blue- collar workers, 25 percent were clerical or sales, 12 percent were managers and administrators, 17 percent were professional and technical workers, and 3 percent farmers. These add up to 101 percent due to rounding error.)
As for education, 6 percent of the people we interviewed had a high school education or less, 31 percent had some college, 19 percent had a B. A. or B. S., 12 percent had some graduate education, and 32 percent had graduate degrees. As for home ownership, only 2 percent already owned a home, 55 percent were in the process of buying one, and the rest rented. In this study, 8 percent of families had regular outside help, 13 percent had occasional help, and 79 percent had no help at all. (Nationwide, 85 percent of all the families have no form of outside help.)
Working couples who are poorer—and especially the women in those couples—have it harder. In her 1986 dissertation on lower – and working – class Chicanas, Denise Segura reported that when she asked wives whether their husbands helped at home, they responded with “half smiles, painful silences, tensing of facial muscles and at times, outright laughter.” The problems of the second shift are probably nowhere resolved any better than in the couples we’ve studied here.
Seventy percent of our couples were white, 24 percent were black, 3 percent Chicano or Latino, and 3 percent Asian. Although I found more conservative attitudes among Chicanos, I found no difference between whites and Chicano men in their help at home. Nor did I find a difference between whites and blacks. (One of Joseph Pleck’s studies, 1982, showed a smaller weekly leisure gap among black husbands and wives—11 hours— than among whites—17 hours—but I didn’t find this.)