Florencia Torche "Doing Gender and the Surname Choices of Married Women"

Blumer Room - 402 Social Sciences Building

Women were required by law to take their husband’s surnames upon marriage until the 1970s, and the practice is still dominant in American society. This practice provides a unique opportunity to evaluate the persistence of gendered norms and expectations beyond people’s stated attitudes. The marital exchange/bargaining approaches predicts that married women will be more likely to take their husband’s surnames if they have lower status than their husbands. In contrast. In contrast, the doing gender approach predicts that wives will be more likely to take their husbands’ names when their status surpasses their husbands’, to compensate for their gender deviance. Using natality data with complete surname information between 2010 and 2021, we find strong support for the doing gender approach. Compared to couples with similar educational and racial status, women are more likely to take their husbands’ names when they have lower and higher status than their husbands. The likelihood of taking their husbands’ names increases with the status disparity between spouses. Despite gender equalization within marriages, marital surname choices suggest that gendered practices embedded in patriarchal expectations are prevalent in American society.