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As Millennials reject gender roles, but embrace marriage, they're changing society

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A 2009 Pew survey indicated that 84 percent of Millennials disagreed either somewhat or completely (two-thirds) that “women should return to their traditional roles in society.” Last year, 82 percent of Millennials told Pew that the trend toward more women in the workplace has been a “change for the better.”

Millennial women have decisively acted on these beliefs. The Millennial Generation is the first in US history in which women are more likely to attend college and professional school than are men. And once in college, women are also more likely to graduate then men. By 2016, women are projected to receive an even larger majority of undergraduate and advanced degrees than they earn now.

The sharp increases in female educational achievement have, in turn, led to economic gains for women. While an overall income gap between women and men still persists, it has been narrowed sharply. In 2010, across all job categories, women earned an average of 78 percent of what men did, compared to 60 percent three decades earlier.

Moreover, among urban-based Millennials, there are indications that the income gender gap has disappeared. In some major markets, childless women in their twenties earned on average 16 percent more than men of a similar age.

All of this female achievement has produced some reconsideration of the traditional definitions of men’s and women’s roles not only in America’s workplaces and classrooms, but also in its homes.

In a 2010 essay in Newsweek, two male Millennials, Andrew Romano and Tony Dokoupil, posited the need for “a New Macho: a reimagining of what men should be expected to do in the two realms, home and work, that have always defined their worth.” They predict a greater participation in housework and child rearing from the males of their generation than by earlier generations of fathers.

Already, 2010 census data show that 32 percent of fathers with working wives routinely care for their children under age 15, up more than 20 percent since 2002.

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