Seattle Times

Nation & World : Wednesday, May 03, 2000

Young men placing family above career, survey says

by Kirstin Downey Grimsley
The Washington Post

Young men today are beginning to view themselves as fathers first and workers second, according to a new national survey that found dramatic changes in generational attitudes toward work and family.

In sharp contrast to previous generations of men who viewed themselves primarily as breadwinners, more than four-fifths of men ages 20 to 39 interviewed in the poll said that having a work schedule that allows them to spend time with their family is more important than doing challenging work or earning a high salary. Only about one-quarter of the men said having a prestigious job was very important to them.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

The nationwide survey of 1,008 workers 20 and older was conducted in January and February by Harris Interactive for the Radcliffe Public Policy Center in Cambridge, Mass., which studies economic issues.

About 70 percent of men in their 20s and 71 percent of men in their 30s said they would be willing to give up some of their pay in exchange for more time with their families. Only 26 percent of men over 65 said they would trade pay for more family time.

The young men's views now mirror those of young women, a majority of whom also rate having family time as more important than any other single career factor, and who traditionally have placed greater importance on family issues than men. About 63 percent of women aged 20 to 29 said they would give up pay for more family time, compared with 69 percent of women over 65.

"What we're seeing is a transformation between generations and gender," said labor economist Paula Rayman, director of the Radcliffe center. "Young men are beginning to replicate women's sensibilities instead of women in the work force trying to be more like men.

"This is the first generation of its kind ever in human history where we have a majority of young men who have come out of homes . . . where the mothers worked full time."

Management consultant Claire Raines said the big exception to young workers' aversion to long work hours comes at high-tech companies, where workers believe that intense effort for several years will permit them to cash out with generous stock options quickly.

"They look at it as short-term," Raines said. "They see it as the price of freedom in future years."

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