We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Unequal Time

Gender, Class, and Family in Employment Schedules

Dan Clawson is professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Naomi Gerstel is a distinguished university professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Publication Year: 2014

Life is unpredictable. Control over one’s time is a crucial resource for managing that unpredictability, keeping a job, and raising a family. But the ability to control one’s time, much like one’s income, is determined to a significant degree by both gender and class. In Unequal Time, sociologists Dan Clawson and Naomi Gerstel explore the ways in which social inequalities permeate the workplace, shaping employees’ capacities to determine both their work schedules and home lives, and exacerbating differences between men and women, and the economically privileged and disadvantaged.

Unequal Time investigates the interconnected schedules of four occupations in the health sector—professional-class doctors and nurses, and working-class EMTs and nursing assistants. While doctors and EMTs are predominantly men, nurses and nursing assistants are overwhelmingly women. In all four occupations, workers routinely confront schedule uncertainty, or unexpected events that interrupt, reduce, or extend work hours. Yet, Clawson and Gerstel show that members of these four occupations experience the effects of schedule uncertainty in very distinct ways, depending on both gender and class. But doctors, who are professional-class and largely male, have significant control over their schedules and tend to work long hours because they earn respect from their peers for doing so. By contrast, nursing assistants, who are primarily female and working-class, work demanding hours because they are most likely to be penalized for taking time off, no matter how valid the reasons.

Unequal Time also shows that the degree of control that workers hold over their schedules can either reinforce or challenge conventional gender roles. Male doctors frequently work overtime and rely heavily on their wives and domestic workers to care for their families. Female nurses are more likely to handle the bulk of their family responsibilities, and use the control they have over their work schedules in order to dedicate more time to home life. Surprisingly, Clawson and Gerstel find that in the working class occupations, workers frequently undermine traditional gender roles, with male EMTs taking significant time from work for child care and women nursing assistants working extra hours to financially support their children and other relatives. Employers often underscore these disparities by allowing their upper-tier workers (doctors and nurses) the flexibility that enables their gender roles at home, including, for example, reshaping their workplaces in order to accommodate female nurses’ family obligations. Low-wage workers, on the other hand, are pressured to put their jobs before the unpredictable events they might face outside of work.

Though we tend to consider personal and work scheduling an individual affair, Clawson and Gerstel present a provocative new case that time in the workplace also collective. A valuable resource for workers’ advocates and policymakers alike, Unequal Time exposes how social inequalities reverberate through a web of interconnected professional relationships and schedules, significantly shaping the lives of workers and their families.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation


pdf iconDownload PDF

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. v-vi

List of Tables and Figures

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. vii-xiii

About the Authors

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. ix-x

read more

Preface and Acknowledgments

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. xi-xvi

This project began longer ago than we care to think. It began when we first thought about where our interests intersected and whether collaboration would be fruitful. Naomi’s work, with numerous collaborators, had shown that families, when confronted by what might appear to be the...

Part I: Introduction

read more

Chapter 1: Unpredictability and Unequal Control in a Web of Time

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 3-18

Because life is routinely unpredictable, our control over time becomes a crucial resource for keeping a job and having a family—but control over time, much like income, is contested and powerfully shaped by gender and class inequalities. Those inequalities reverberate through a “web of...

read more

Chapter 2: Conceps and Methods

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 19-32

We began this study with a broad aim: to develop a research design that would allow us to understand inequalities in hours and schedules and the social processes that produce them. Initially we considered many occupations, but after substantial discussion, we decided to examine four...

Chapter 3: The Context: Occupations and Organizations

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 33-58

read more

Chapter 4: Setting the Official Schedule

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 59-86

When they are hired , regular staff members are typically given an official basic schedule that specifies in advance a number of work hours and a shift—day, evening, and/or night; weekday or weekend—that both they and their employer come to expect. These official schedules are disrupted...

Part II: The Forms of Unpredictability

read more

Chapter 5: Unpredictabiliity and Churning: Is There a Fixed Schedule?

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 89-107

“Normal unpredictability” means that the schedules people actually work often do not match the schedules that are set in advance. Employers adjust staffing depending on the number and condition of the people seeking their services. Employees cannot work at some of the times specified...

read more

Chapter 6: Adding Time to the Official Schedule

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 108-129

Everybody talks about adding time to their official basic schedules— women and men, advantaged workers and disadvantaged workers—but workers have very different motives for wanting to add time, and they encounter very different responses from employers and the state. The issues...

read more

Chapter 7: Taking Time Off: Sick Leaves and Vacations

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 130-156

The right to time off from work that many take for granted was contested and won for the most part in the last 150 years, with active skirmishing continuing today. Take the weekend. “The concept of the weekend, as we now understand it, didn’t appear in the...

Part III: Families and Jobs: Creating and Responding to Unpredictability

read more

Chapter 8: Unequal Families: Class Shapes Women's Responses to Unpredictability

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 159-180

Both employers and employees in our study said that families drive unpredictability and the struggle over schedules. Talking about hours and schedules, a human resources administrator reported that when she talked to nurses about their schedules, “the key issue is family.” “Family is your...

read more

Chapter 9: Unequal Families: Class Shapes Men's Responses to Unpredictability

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 181-208

An examination of emergency medical technicians and doctors—the two occupations dominated by men—suggests a process parallel to that for nursing assistants and nurses: those with class advantage promote gender conventions, while those with less class advantage “undo gender.”...

Part IV: Strategies to Address Unpredictability

read more

Chapter 10: Finding Solutions in the Web of Time: Coworkers

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 211-234

The web of time , which often creates unpredictability and causes schedule problems, can also provide the solutions to these problems and turn what might have been a major difficulty into a minor complication. With help from coworkers, people can take a sick day without being charged...

read more

Chapter 11: The Push of the Family and the Pull of the Job

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 235-258

Many say that the family is a haven in a heartless world—and it is the job that is the heartless world. This chapter reverses that understanding. Here we show the ways in which workers often use the metaphor of “family” to describe the relationships they develop at work at the same time as...

Part V: Conclusion

read more

Chapter 12: Inequality and the Normal Unpredictability of Time

pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 261-272

Conventional wisdom holds that work policies about time are too rigid. This book shows that for many Americans the problem with work policies is too much flexibility as often as it is too much rigidity. Not only do supposedly “flexible” work policies often force employees to adapt to unpredictability...


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 273-296


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 297-312


pdf iconDownload PDF
pp. 313-324

E-ISBN-13: 9781610448437
E-ISBN-10: 161044843X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871540140
Print-ISBN-10: 0871540142

Page Count: 340
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 885369386
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Unequal Time

Research Areas


UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • Medical personnel -- United States -- Social conditions -- Case studies.
  • Medical personnel -- Time management -- United States -- Case studies.
  • Hours of labor -- United States.
  • Time management surveys -- United States,.
  • Manpower planning -- United States.
  • Work environment -- United States.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access