Public Release: 

The 'Good Life' elusive for middle class working couples with children

Super couples 'have it all' ... expect children

University of Minnesota

In research to be presented at the American Sociological Association's annual meeting, Phyllis Moen, McKnight Presidential Chair in Sociology at the University of Minnesota, says that middle class couples who both work struggle to compete in job environments designed for single earners with no family responsibilities. According to Moen, couples still are operating under outdated work policies and practices and institutional and organizational rules designed for a one earner, one homemaker model.

"Middle class couples are stretched thin in terms of time by "work-friendly" jobs," said Moen. "In part this reflects the realities of a global information economy with its speed-ups, pressures to increase productivity, 24-7 availability by computer, downsizing insecurities, expectations of long hours and little schedule flexibility."

In her paper, Moen describes evidence that middle class dual-earner couples, who appear advantaged given their education and resources, are nevertheless stretched thin. In fact, fewer than one in six qualify as "super couples" (those where both husband and wife have a high quality of life). And those who fit this category tend to be couples with no children.

In about half of the 1,060 couples she studied, Moen found that both the husbands and wives reported either low quality of life or only adequate -- what she calls "good enough" -- quality of life. Women working in job environments that are insecure or offer them little scheduling flexibility and control are unlikely to have individual or couple life quality.


Moen's paper, "Dual-Earner Middle-Class Time Convoys, Ecologies, and Life-Course 'Fit:' Super Couples or Couples Stretched Thin?" will be presented from 4:30 - 6:10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 11, at the Palais des congres de Montreal (the convention center in downtown Montreal, Canada).

Moen studies and has published numerous books and articles on occupational careers, retirement, families, health, gender and social policy, as they intersect and as they play out over the life course. Her two most recent books report on data obtained through a grant supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. They are "It's About Time: Couples and Careers" (2003) and "The Career Mystique: Cracks in the American Dream" (2005, with Pat Roehling). The Career Mystique earned the 2005 Award for Excellence in Sociology and Social Work from the Association of American Publishers Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division.

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