Youth, Education, and Work in Postindustrial Societies


Brinton’s recent work focuses on the transformation of labor markets in postindustrial societies and the implications for young workers, especially those with less education. Her book, Lost in Transition: Youth, Education, and Work in Postindustrial Japan was published first in Japanese (fall 2008; NTT Press) in order to reach a broad audience in Japan interested in the difficulties faced by young Japanese men trying to "make it" in an economic environment vastly different from what their fathers faced. The rapid increase in contingent employment and employers’ diminished commitment to "lifetime employment" have produced higher rates of part-time employment and unemployment among Japanese young men than have been seen for many decades. Using original survey data, interviews with urban high school teachers, original data sets on the high school-work transition, and in-depth interviews with a sample of male high school graduates who finished school in the depth of the Japanese recession, Brinton argues for a structural interpretation of the social malaise afflicting 21st-century Japan. 

Gender and Work

The Declining Significance of Gender? (Russell Sage Foundation, 2007) draws together original essays by leading American sociologists and labor economists who examine contemporary patterns of gender inequality in American labor markets and households to make theoretically informed predictions about whether we are headed for a gender-egalitarian future or not. In collaboration with David Grusky (Stanford University) and Francine Blau (Cornell University), Brinton traces the dominant theoretical paradigms governing our understanding of gender inequality in the introductory chapter of the book, and examines the engines of change or stasis inherent in each theoretical approach.

Women’s Working Lives in East Asia (Stanford University Press, 2001) is an edited volume that presents research from a number of Brinton’s East Asian graduate students and collaborators on the comparison of gender inequality patterns across three East Asian economies: Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Brinton and her collaborators demonstrate that Japan and Korea cluster together in exhibiting similarly strong patterns of gender inequality in the labor market, with Taiwan exhibiting more rapid change towards gender-egalitarian patterns of work. The book includes chapters ranging from the purely qualitative to the highly quantitative, and chapters focusing exclusively on one country case as well as those that compare two or all three of the country cases with each other.

Women and the Economic Miracle: Gender and Work in Postwar Japan (University of California Press, 1993) examines why Japanese society exhibits the strongest degree of gender inequality across industrial and postindustrial societies. Drawing on original quantitative and qualitative data as well as a variety of secondary data sources, she shows how the institutional context of Japanese labor markets, the educational system, and the family set constraints and opportunities for individual action that culminate in strongly gendered work patterns and a high degree of gender inequality in the workplace.

Institutional Change

The New Institutionalism in Sociology (Russell Sage Foundation,1998; paperback edition published by Stanford University Press, 2001) is a volume co-edited with Victor Nee that examines rational choice-derived perspectives and empirical research on institutional change. The book includes chapters by sociologists and economists who examine the social embeddedness of key institutions in capitalist economies and who consider the role of norms and cultural beliefs in economic development and institutional formation and change.