Here is an interesting summary of what conservatives think is the biggest change in American society over the last half century:
The single most important economic and sociological change in our society in modern times has been the entry of women into the labor market. Today, three of every four women of working age are in the labor market — more than double the share a half century ago.
These changes have had a major impact on family life. Less than one out of every four households is “traditional,” with one wage-earner and a stay-at-home spouse. Dual-earner families — with both spouses in the labor market — now constitute more than half of all married couples.
A few quick thoughts:
1. This commentary on the effects of family life really picked up in the 1960s with the Moynihan Report and the “culture of poverty” thesis.
2. The family has changed quite a bit since the 1950s with more children today born to unmarried parents and more people living alone. However, was the 1950s family quite unusual (the product of a postwar economic boom plus the return of servicemen) compared to families in the last few hundred years?
3. Some women did always work, particularly in lower-class families, because their income was needed. Granted, the number of women who work has risen since the mid-1900s.
4. Behind this seems to be the assumption that the nuclear family is the fundamental building block of society. A society with weak families will be a weak society.