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Men matter more: the social class identity of married British women, 1985–1991


Anthony Heath, Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, Littlegate House, St Ebbes Street, Oxford, OX1 1PT, UK.


Summary.  We investigate the class identity of married women as it relates to their own and their husband's class position. Whereas previous workers have attempted to test whether identity depends solely on the husband's position, not at all on the husband's position or equally on the husband's and wife's position, leaving out all intermediate cases, we estimate new diagonal reference models that quantify the relative weight of each partner's class position on their own class identity. In previous literature, it was also argued that women who work full time should be more likely to adopt a sharing model than other women and in some cases these different types of women were compared. We move beyond this simple dichotomy and more systematically formulate hypotheses about the conditions under which women attach more or less weight to their own class position and less or more weight respectively to that of their husbands. To test these hypotheses, we consider models where the weights are allowed to depend on characteristics of each partner and the couple. Using the British Social Attitudes Survey data for 1985–1991, we find that, when the husband's commitment to the labour force exceeds that of the wife, the husband's weight exceeds the wife's weight but, when the wife's commitment exceeds that of the husband's, the weights are approximately equal. We also find (unexpectedly) that women who hold higher positions than their husbands attach more weight to their husband's position than to their own position.

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