Women‟s labor force participation has increased dramatically across all advanced capitalist democracies over the last 50 years. However, women continue to face significant employment inequality in hours of employment, pay, and occupational gender segregation. These changes in women‟s employment outcomes have captured the attention of welfare state researchers and policymakers and have radically altered our understanding of the welfare state.
In this dissertation, I empirically assess how both welfare state policies and changes in the labor market influence women‟s employment outcomes across 14 welfare states from 1960 to 2008. The countries in this analysis are Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, (West) Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In this research, I focus primarily on family policies, a subset of state social policies that mediate the relationship between the market and family, and allow men and women to engage in care-taking responsibilities without losing their labor market position and rewards. The family policies I consider include parental leaves, publicly funded childcare, and family allowances, support benefits, and tax credits.
These policies are intriguing because there is evidence that much of the gap between men‟s and women‟s employment outcomes is caused by motherhood. Family policies are targeted specifically at mothers and families with children, and so should, theoretically, reduce the inequality between men‟s and women‟s employment outcomes. However, there is relatively little research into the role that family polices play in employment inequality at the aggregate level, especially in hours of work, the wage gap, or occupational gender segregation. This dissertation fills in that research gap by investigating the impact of family policies on women‟s labor force participation rates, women‟s rate of and share of part-time work and involuntary part-time work, the male/female wage gap, and occupational gender segregation, while accounting for other welfare state policies and activities and labor market factors that have been linked to women‟s employment outcomes.
In my analysis, I find that parental leaves increase labor force participation rates among young women and reduce the male-female wage gap. Publicly funded childcare increases labor force participation rates among young women, decreases women‟s concentration in part-time employment and in involuntary part-time employment, and reduces the male-female wage gap. Importantly, neither parental leaves nor childcare policies appear to be strongly related to occupational gender segregation. On the other hand, family allowances and support benefits decrease labor force participation rates for women ages 25-34 and increase occupational gender segregation.
My analysis provides evidence that generous maternity and parental leaves and high levels of publicly funded childcare work to reduce employment inequality between men and women by reducing inequalities in hours of work and reducing the male-female pay gap. The finding for the pay gap is particularly exciting because recent research has found that much of the pay gap across countries has been shown to be due to motherhood. I conclude with implications and directions for future research.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2010. Major: Sociology. Advisor: DR. Phyllis Moen. 1 computer file (PDF); xii, 336 pages, appendices 1-16.
Family policies or labor markets? women's employment inequality in 14 Welfare States from 1960 to 2008..
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.