Kathleen Gerson is Professor of Sociology and Collegiate Professor of Arts and Science at New York University. Her work focuses on the revolutions in gender, work, and family life that began in the last half of the 20th century and continue to unfold in the United States and globally. By combining the deep understandings afforded by in-depth, life history interviewing with careful, systematic sampling and analysis, her research seeks to understand how large-scale social change takes place and how it prompts individuals to develop new ways of living that then reshape the larger contours of society and politics.
She is especially interested in understanding how women and men fashion commitments to the intertwined worlds of paid work and family life as they move through the life course. Exploring how people understand, break down, and seek to resolve the dilemmas arising from the conflicts between work and family structures, she has explored these questions in a series of path-breaking books. Beginning with Hard Choices (1985), she examined how young women from diverse social backgrounds traveled unexpected paths as they sought to resolve the tensions between building a family and creating a base in the workplace. In No Man’s Land (1993), she next looked at how men’s lives are transformed by the gender revolution, which has given them more freedom to avoid family responsibilities but has also created increased expectations to be involved fathers and partners.
In a her third installment of what has been called a “classic trilogy,” Kathleen turned her attention to the “children of the gender revolution,” who grew up in changing families and now face intensifying pressures to integrate work and family life while lacking the social supports to do so. Her award winning book, The Unfinished Revolution (2011), shows how young people react when their egalitarian ideals clash with intransigent institutional structures that make these ideals difficult to achieve and often out of reach.
Kathleen has also co-authored The Time Divide (2004, with Jerry A. Jacobs) , which draws on census, survey, and cross-national data to explain how and why working time has become a new form of social inequality that is dividing Americans in a variety of ways. With Sarah Damaske, she is completing a book on the theory and practice of in-depth interviewing.
Recently awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, she is now writing a book on work and care in the new economy. Drawing on extensive interviews with a broad cross-section of adults in Silicon Valley and the New York area, the book examines how the precarious conditions of “the new economy” are reshaping patterns of work, caregiving, and gender in the contemporary U.S. It will chart the emergence of new strategies in response to rising financial uncertainty and fragile intimate relationships and will explore the implications for gender and class inequality.
Kathleen has held visiting positions at the Russell Sage Foundation and the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. In addition to a Guggenheim Fellowship, she has received the American Sociological Association Jessie Bernard Award (for distinguished contributions to understanding women and gender in society), the Rosabeth Kanter Award (for excellence in work-family research), and the William Goode Distinguished Book Award (for The Unfinished Revolution). As a professional citizen, Kathleen is the incoming Vice President of the American Sociological Association, the immediate Past Co-President of the Sociologists for Women in Society, and a Past President of the Eastern Sociological Society.
In the public realm, she has participated (and continues to participate) in a range of national and international initiatives focused on issues of work-family integration and gender inclusion, including projects sponsored by the Ford Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, the Council on Contemporary Families, and Catalyst.
Selected Recent Articles:“Unpacking Americans’ Views on the Employment of Mothers and Fathers: Lessons from a National Vignette Survey” (with Jerry A. Jacobs). Gender and Society (2016).
“Different Ways of Not Having It All: Work, Care, and Shifting Gender Arrangements in the New Economy.” In Beyond the Cubicle: Insecurity Culture and the Flexible Self, edited by Allison Pugh. New York: Oxford (2016).
“The Logics of Work, Care, and Gender Change in the New Economy: A View from the U.S.” In “Work-Family Dynamics and the Competing Logics of Regulation, Economy and Morals, edited by Berit Brandth, Sigtona Halrynjo, and Elin Kvande. London: Routledge (forthcoming).
“‘Expansionist Theory’ Expanded: Integrating Sociological and Psychological Perspectives on Gender, Work, and Family Change.” Gender and Couple Relationships, edited by Susan M. McHale, Valarie King, Jennifer Van Hook, and Alan booth. New York: Springer (2015).
“Falling Back on Plan B: The Children of the Gender Revolution Face Uncharted Territory.” Pp. 378-392 in Families as They Really Are, edited by Barbara J. Risman. New York: W.W. Norton. (Second edition, 2015).
“Changing Family Patterns and the Future of Family Life.” Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, edited by Robert A. Scott and Stephen M. Kosslyn. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley and Sons (2015).
“Time-Greedy Workplaces and Marriageable Men: The Paradox in Men's Fathering Beliefs and Strategies” (with Pamela Kaufman). In "Men, Wage Work and Care," edited by Paula McDonald. London: Routledge (2012).
“After the Fall of Gender Barriers.” European Journal of Sociology 51 (3) (2011).
“Changing Lives, Resistant Institutions: A New Generation Negotiates Gender, Work, and Family Change.” Sociological Forum 24 (4) (December, 2009).