Gender regimes and the prophecy of place: Micro/macro dimensions of stratification processes for young women

Date of Completion

January 1997


Women's Studies|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies|Sociology, Social Structure and Development




This study addresses processes of early goal formation, informed by a qualitative study of adolescent women, and analyzes links between aspirations and attainment, based on two broad-based sources, a longitudinal survey (NLSY) and labor market (LMA) measures. I test how aspects unique to a geographic area--place effects--influence those processes. A key concept for understanding stratification processes is gender regime, which encompasses the organization of gender relations; it accommodates individual-level interaction and organizational structure. In addition, gender regime refers to a matrix of factors bounded by space; thus, place effects also reflect components of a gender regime.^ Qualitative data reveal an "inventory" of gender regimes: gender status beliefs, which include the appropriate woman, an idealized femininity; gender equity ambivalence, in which women deny the relevance of gender; and milieu channeling: young women from one community are more goal-oriented than participants from the second site, and the effect appears to be independent of social class.^ The quantitative analysis uses hierarchical linear modeling to test for place effects (LMA data) on goal formation and attainment (survey data). Average scores on educational and occupational goals and attainment for young women are influenced by characteristics of their home LMA. Strong gender effects are supported: Percentage of young women in college and average marriage age positively affect overall outcomes for individual women, while percentage of young women married negatively affect individual outcomes. Further, the relationship between background and individual outcome is moderated by place effects. Generally, LMA "health" indicators increase background effects on individual outcomes, while negative variables decrease level-one coefficients.^ Two key points are supported: (a) gender regimes are multi-dimensional and define contexts in which young women negotiate life decisions; and (b) basic status attainment predictors vary in their influence, based on variants in gender regimes. Stratification researchers should reconsider status attainment models; we have not sufficiently specified how social inheritance is gendered, and how environmental factors--demonstrated here as place effects--moderate those processes. Future studies must address early goal formation and its embeddedness in systems of power. ^