Divided Expectations: The Influences of Biography, Gender, and Class

Joyce Altobelli, University of Minnesota
Phyllis Moen, Cornell University
Donna L. Spencer, University of Minnesota

Demographers have long considered peoples' expectations (e.g., for the number and timing of children) as important predictors of behavior. But investigation of couples' conjoint expectations has been particularly absent. And yet life course as well as expectancy theory suggests that decision-making (and hence expectations) are made within embedded social relations, such as the husband/wife dyad. In this paper we focus on individual- and couple-level expectations using survey data on dual-earner, middle-class couples. For individuals in our sample, we look at expectations of changing jobs, retiring, and getting married. For couples, we look at expectations of spouse's job change, as well as expectations of moving and having (or adopting) a child. We examine: (1) the influences of biography on expectations and subsequent behavior; (2) the influences of occupation and education on individual expectations and subsequent occurrence of change; (3) the congruence and dynamics of expectations and decision-making within couples.

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Presented in Session 38: Expectations and Social Relationships