Published: June 5, 2018

Download: Life Course Centre Working Paper: 2017-01


Francisco Perales, Philipp Lersch, and Janeen Baxter.

An updated version of this paper has been published in Social Science Research, DOI: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2018.11.003 

Non-Technical Summary:

The second half of the 20th century brought about substantial falls in support for traditional gender ideologies, but these trends recently slowed down. This is important, as adherence to traditional gender ideology contributes to the (re)production of gender inequalities. Hence, understanding the factors that lie behind the stall in trends towards gender egalitarianism is important.

In this paper, we examine the separate and combined impacts of ageing and birth cohort on individuals’ gender attitudes in Britain and Australia. By using unique longitudinal data including repeated measurements of the same gender-attitude items for the same individuals, we provide novel insights into how variable individual-level gender-attitude ‘trajectories’ are across birth cohorts and over the life course. We pay attention to whether and how ageing leads to different changes in gender ideology amongst individuals from different birth cohorts, as well as amongst different individuals within the same birth cohorts.

We find that (i) people from older cohorts hold more traditional gender attitudes, (ii) the effect of ageing on gender ideology is positive in Britain but negative in Australia, (iii) there are cohort-differences in these ageing effects, (iv) gender-attitude trajectories are less predictable in younger than older cohorts, and (v) factors capturing life-course experience explain little of the cohort differences.

This knowledge can help researchers and policymakers better comprehend and influence gendered choices and behaviours, gender-specific barriers to human capability development, and resulting gender gaps in outcomes across life domains. The also offer valuable insights into the likely pace and projection of the gender revolution, how population ageing is likely to affect its progress in the proximate future, and how policy levers to promote gender equality may be received and experienced

Additionally, our findings highlight promising research directions to be pursued by gender-attitude scholars, including the importance of considering individual variability in gender-attitude change, the need to expand the evidence base beyond the United States, and the value of continuing to probe into how life-course factors can trigger attitude shifts.


January 4, 2017