Barbara J. Risman

Professor of Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Former Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University
Areas of Expertise:
  • Family Policies
  • Children & Families
  • Women
  • Jobs & Workers

Connect with Barbara

About Barbara

Risman’s teaching and research focuses on women’s status in society, and the changing politics and policies around gender and sexual inequality. Her areas of expertise include work and family policies, changing family roles, the diversity of family structure and the Millennial generation.  Risman’s current research looks at how Millennials adapting to  or  demanding changes in work, family, and civic society relating to gender diversity. She is currently President of the Board of Director sof the national non-profit organization Council on Contemporary Families, whose mission is to bring new research and clinical information about families, gender, sexualities, and relationships to public conversation and to inform policymakers. She is also currently Vice-President of the American Sociological Association, and President of the Southern Sociological Society.



"2016 Southern Sociological Society Presidential Address: Are Millennials Cracking the Gender Structure" Social Currents (2017).

Presents theoretical argument that we should conceptualize gender as a social structure, with a differentiation between the material and the cultural dimension at each level of the gender structure.

"The Goal of Gender Transformation in American Universities: Toward Social Justice for Women in the Academy" (with Timothy Adkins), in Social Justice and the University, edited by Jon Shefner, Harry F. Dahms, Robert Emmet Jones, Asafa Jalata (Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2014), 99-113.

Examines social justice within Universities.

"Student Bodies" (with Timothy Adkins, Paula England, and Jessie Ford). Social Currents 2, no. 2 (2015): 144-162.

Examines whether the sex ratio of the student body of a college or university affects whether heterosexual students hook up, have relationships, have intercourse, or have attitudes favorable toward casual sex.

Gender Vertigo: American Families in Transition (Yale University Press, 1998).

Looks at the changing gender patterns among American families with attention primarily to dual-career couples, and single parents, with comparison of single fathers and mothers. Suggests that nurturing is not necessarily tied to sex of the parent.

"It Goes Hand in Hand with the Parties: Race, Class and Residence in College Student Negotiations of Hooking Up" (with Rachel Allison). Sociological Perspective 57, no. 1 (2014): 102-123.

Suggests that the focus on student hooking up culture overlooks how narrow the population is that typifies this young adult lifestyle.  Discusses how hooking up is a pattern among mostly white middle class students who live at residential colleges. Argues that working class and students of color  perceive hooking up  as one more privilege denied to them.

"Feminists Wrestle with Testosterone: Hormones, Socialization and Cultural Interactionism as Predictors of Women’s Gendered Selves" (with Shannon Daivs). Social Science Research 49 (2015): 110-125.

Provides evidence that biological factors provide only weak explanations for women’s adult choices, but that childhood socialization does matter a great deal.

In the News

"Adding Third-Sex Option on Birth Certificates is a Start," Barbara J. Risman (with Georgiann Davis), The Seattle Times, February 11, 2018.
Barbara J. Risman quoted in Brian Flood, "Are Millennials Gender Rebels or Returning to Tradition?" PhysOrg, January 11, 2018.
"Millennials: Not Pushing the Envelope, Not Rejecting the Gender Revolution," Barbara J. Risman (with William J. Scarborough and Ray Sin), The Society Pages, April 17, 2017.
Barbara J. Risman's research on marriage discussed in Krista WilsonBarbara J. Risman, "Where Marriage Fits in the Modern World," Spartan News Room, May 8, 2017.
Barbara J. Risman quoted , "How to Stop Sexism at the Ballot Box" Huffington Post, February 2016.
Barbara J. Risman quoted in Dawn M. Turner, "When Women Call Themselves the G-Word" Chicago Tribune, October 2015.
Barbara J. Risman quoted on North Carolina's discriminatory bathroom law in Shivani Vora, "North Carolina and Mississippi See Tourist Backlash After L.G.B.T. Laws" New York Times, April 2016.
Barbara J. Risman quoted in Shaun Dreisbach Glamour, January 2017.
"Only Way to Free Us from Bathroom Bullies: Follow Millennials," Barbara J. Risman, The News & Observer, August 2016.
"Let’s Make a Rule on Sexual Harassment," Barbara J. Risman, CNN, April 20, 2011.
"Phony ‘Mommy Wars’ Avoid Real Issues for Women," Barbara J. Risman, CNN, April 20, 2012.
Barbara J. Risman quoted on the gender gap surrounding parenting in Emily Alpert Reyes, "Young Women Closing Workplace Gender Gap" Los Angeles Times, December 10, 2013.
Barbara J. Risman quoted on the male stigma of feminine behavior in Emily Alpert Reyes, "Men are Stuck in Gender Roles, Data Suggest" Los Angeles Times, December 26, 2013.
Barbara J. Risman quoted on the perception of college hookup culture in Jessica Grose, "Coverage of Nonexistent Hookup Culture Makes Students Feel Left Out of Nonexistent Hookup Culture" Slate, January 23, 2014.
Guest to discuss why mothers are staying home on Wisconsin Public Radio, Barbara J. Risman, April 9, 2014.
"Sexism Matters, Racism Matters Too," Barbara J. Risman, Parlio, December 15, 2015.
Barbara J. Risman's research on why mothers are staying home discussed in Erin HoekstraBarbara J. Risman, "Stay-at-Home Parenting is on the Rise Because Mothers Can’t Find Work," Pacific Standard, May 30, 2014.
"Should You Let Your Daughter be a ‘Pink Princess?," Barbara J. Risman (with Shannon Davis), CNN, November 30, 2014.
"Are Millennials Feminists?," Barbara J. Risman, Chicago Tribune, February 16, 2016.