THE XX FACTOR by Alison Wolf


How the Rise of Working Women Has Created a Far Less Equal World
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An exploration of the unforeseen consequences attached to women’s liberation.

For a book about women to start with a Jane Austen anecdote is almost trite. For a book about inter- and intra-gender equality with an economic and educational focus to start with a Jane Austen quote is less expected. It is also a perfect way to illustrate the changes that have occurred in women’s lives in the two intervening centuries. Economist Wolf (Public Services Policy and Management/King’s Coll., London; Does Education Matter?, 2003) parlays her interest in the intersection of education and employment into a book exploring the effects of that intersection on gender gaps. She argues that the gap between genders has all but disappeared, while the gap between the educated and the less educated within each gender has widened considerably. The book is organized into two distinct sections. In the first part, Wolf focuses on women in the workforce; though it teems with interesting statistics and useful knowledge, the writing is often lackluster. The second part, however, in which the author discusses women at home—their sexual and familial habits and choices—is more compellingly written. Wolf’s research is so extensive that general readers are unlikely to be able to follow up on even a small percentage of the materials she uses for support (she includes more than 800 notes at the end of the book). Though there is plenty to process, Wolf makes most of the information easily digestible. Some sections read like a textbook, with repetitive assertions and conclusions, but others are remarkably conversational. “The shore of Utopia is a hard place to reach; but today’s educated women, in developing and developed countries, are surely much closer to it than the overwhelming majority of their female ancestors,” she writes.

Solid research and intriguing patterns make for a worthy, if sometimes difficult read.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-307-59040-4
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2013


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