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Opt-Out Revolution

  • By: Rebecca Jo Plant
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

In 2003, New York Times journalist Lisa Belkin identified an “opt-out revolution,” in which American women with advanced degrees and high-paying jobs were choosing to abandon the “fast track” or leave the workforce altogether after having children. The phrase has been widely adopted by the press as a way of explaining a modest decline in the percentage of married mothers in the U.S. workforce since the late 1990s. However, numerous scholars and commentators have questioned whether growing numbers of American mothers are in fact “opting out” because they prefer to remain at home with their children.

Discrimination or Disinterest?

In her article, Belkin sought to explain a seeming paradox: although women and men both obtain elite professional degrees at comparable rates, women remain dramatically underrepresented in positions ...

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