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Mary C. Brinton ’78

Reischauer Institute Professor of Sociology, Harvard University

Mary C. Brinton is the Reischauer Institute Professor of Sociology at Harvard University. She is the former Director of the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies (2018–2023) and the former Chair of the Harvard Department of Sociology (2010–2016). She joined the Harvard faculty in 2003, having previously taught at the University of Chicago for 12 years and at Cornell University for 4 years.

Professor Brinton’s research and teaching focus on gender inequality, labor markets and employment, social demography, and contemporary Japanese society. Her research combines qualitative and quantitative methods to study institutional change and its effects on individual action, particularly in labor markets. Her recently published book 『縛られる日本人: 人口減少をもたらす「規範」を打ち破れるか』(Japan Tied Up in Knots: Can the Norms Leading to Population Decline Be Broken?) (Chūō Kōron Shinsha, 2022) analyzes the link between Japan’s stubbornly low birth rate and persistent gender inequality in the labor market and the family. Drawing on comparative statistics and in-depth interviews with young adult men and women, she argues that movement towards gender equality is stalled in Japan because of the primary policy emphasis on making women’s but not men’s work lives more consistent with family life. Sweden and the U.S. serve as counter-examples that respectively illustrate how social policy and open labor markets help society move towards greater gender equality and maintain higher birth rates. Professor Brinton studied sociolinguistics as an undergraduate at Stanford University, and she earned an M.A. in Japanese Studies and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Washington.

Mary C. Brinton ’78
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