The XX Factor (2013) by Alison Woolf is a really interesting book about how the drastic change in women’s roles in the past 50 years has changed society.
The drastic change on women in the top quintile of income earners in terms of the number of children, if any, they have and the age at which they had them has changed. Their relationships have also greatly changed. Women in the top quintile of income look just like men in the same quintile. They look very different to those women in the bottom quintile. Women and men in the bottom quintiles of income distribution do very sexually segregated jobs, those in the top quintiles overwhelmingly work in integrated jobs.
Woolf shows that gender equality has led to increased increased economic inequality. Families in the top quintile of incomes have two high income earners while those in the bottom quintile have one or zero earners.
The book presents a plethora of statistics on fertility, economics and social attitudes as well as a number of interviews with a number of very successful women that Woolf knows. This gives the book a bit of a personal touch. But it’s also problematic as it all these women seem to not just be in the top 20% but in the top 5% or even more. A big omission from the book is the fate of women in the middle quintiles. What’s happened to them is given scant attention.
Woolf also gives a huge amount of attention to highly elite Universities. Unsurprisingly she is a graduate of one of them and now an academic. She doesn’t ponder if the allure of highly selective places could possibly reduce. Also, these places cater to the top 5%, not the top 20%.
Woolf mentions inter-generational income mobility but doesn’t present the statistics. Movement between quintiles is suggested at but it’s not strongly investigated as it should be.
It’s generally a really interesting read. It would have been better if more women in more of the quintiles were investigated and interviewed though.