Functionalist and Neoclassical Economic Perspectives
As seen earlier, functionalist theory views men and women as having distinct roles that are important for the survival of the family and society. The most basic division of labor is biological: Men are physically stronger, and
women are the only ones able to bear and nurse children. Gendered belief systems foster assumptions about appropriate behavior or men and women and may have an effect on the types of work that women and men perform.
The Importance of Traditional Gender Roles According to functional analysts such as Talcott Parsons (I 955), women’s roles as nurturers and caregivers are even more pronounced in contemporary industrialized societies. While the husband performs the instrumental tasks of providing economic support and making decisions, the wife assumes the express tasks offs of providing affection and emotional support for the family. This division of family labor ensures that important societal tasks will be fulfilled; it also provides stability for family members. This view has been adopted by a number of politically conservative analysts ‘who assert that relationships between men and women are damaged when changes II’ gender roles occur, and family life suffers as a consequence. From this perspective, the traditional division of labor between men and women is the natural order of the universe.
The Human Capital Model Functionalist explanations of occupational gender segregation are !SImilar to neoclassical economic perspectives, such as the human capital model (Horan, 1978; Kemp, 1994). According to this model, individuals vary widely in the mount of human capital they bring to the labor market. HI/man capital is acquired by education and job training; it is the source of a person’s productivity and can be measured in terms of the return on the investment (wages) and the cost (schooling or raining) (Stevenson, 1988; Kemp, 1994). From this perspective, what individuals earn is the result of their own choices (the kinds f training, education, and experience they accumulate, for example) and of the labor market need (demand) for and availability