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Cohort change, diffusion, and support for gender egalitarianism in cross-national perspective

By Fred Pampel


Arguments about the spread of gender egalitarian values through a population highlight several sources of change. First, structural arguments point to increases in the proportion of women with high education, jobs with good pay, commitment to careers outside the family, and direct interests in gender equality. Second, value-shift arguments contend that gender norms change with economic affluence among women and men in diverse positions—at all levels of education, for example. Third, diffusion arguments suggest that structural changes lead to adoption of new ideas and values supportive of gender equality by innovative, high-education groups, but that the new ideas later diffuse to other groups. This study tests these arguments by using International Social Survey Program surveys in 1988, 1994, and 2002 for 19 nations to examine gender egalitarianism across 85 cohorts born from roughly 1900 to 1984. Multilevel models support diffusion arguments by demonstrating that the effects of education first strengthen with early adoption of gender egalitarianism and then weaken as other groups come to accept the same views. However, the evidence of a sequence of divergence and convergence in educational differences across cohorts appears most clearly for women in Western nations.cohort, diffusion, education, gender, gender equality, ISSP

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