The census of 2000 showed “family values” increasingly in disarray. Half of all marriages ended in divorce (70 percent on the West Coast), and over one-third of all births were to unmarried women, including not only sexually active teenagers but growing numbers of professional women in their thirties and forties, as well. Two-thirds of married women worked outside the home, and less than one-fourth of all households consisted of a “traditional” family—a wife, husband, and their children.

However, the pay gap between men and women persisted. In 2008, men’s median weekly earnings were $800, women’s $6ro. In only two occupational categories did women earn more than men—postal service clerks and special education teachers.

Although dominated by conservatives, the Supreme Court, in Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania (1992), reaffirmed a woman’s right to obtain an abortion. The decision allowed states to enact mandatory waiting periods and anti-abortion counseling, but it overturned a requirement that the husband be given notification before the procedure was undertaken. “At the heart of liberty,” said the Court, “is the right to ... make the most intimate and personal choices” without outside interference. In effect, Casey repudiated the centuries-old doctrine that a husband has a legal claim to control the body of his wife.

Figure 27.7 CHANGES IN FAMILY STRUCTURE, 1970-2000*

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, less than one-quarter of American households consisted of a “traditional” family—a married couple living with their children.

The narrowness of the 5-4 vote in Casey and the vehemence of the dissenters, including Chief Justice William Rehnquist, in insisting that Roe v. Wade must be reversed, left the legal status of abortion rights dependent on future changes in the Court’s membership. As of 2000, however, although conservatives had controlled the presidency under Reagan and Bush, Congress after 1994, and the Supreme Court, they had not eliminated abortion rights, restored prayer to public schools, or persuaded women to abandon public aspirations and “go about the business of marrying and raising children,” as Republican congressional leader Richard Armey indelicately demanded. Women did not listen to Armey. At the dawn of the twentieth-century, women received more than 60 percent of all college degrees (as opposed to 35 percent in 1960) and over 40 percent of advanced law, medical, and business degrees (up from around 5 percent forty years earlier). The abortion rate declined throughout the 1990s, but this was mostly because teenagers had increasing access to contraception. The sexual revolution and feminism, it seemed, were here to stay.

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