Women's Life Cycle and Economic Insecurity: Problems and Proposals

Women's Life Cycle and Economic Insecurity: Problems and Proposals

Women's Life Cycle and Economic Insecurity: Problems and Proposals

Women's Life Cycle and Economic Insecurity: Problems and Proposals


"Gender, like race and ethnicity, is an increasingly important factor in assessing social policy in the United States. For those who want to understand the role of gender in the poverty problem today, Women's Life Cycle and Economic Insecurity provides a splendid collection of articles containing new knowledge and fresh insights." Sheila B. Kamerman Professor, Social Policy and Planning Columbia University School of Social Work


James P. Smith

Throughout all Western countries, revolutionary changes have taken place in women's economic role. Strongly held stereotypes about where the proper "place" for women was and what jobs were "women's work" have been forced to give way to new demographic and economic realities. Increasing numbers of women -- in all marital and family situations -- have flocked to the labor market in response to a steadily increasing demand for their services. While this revolution had its origins in economic changes in the job market, its repercussions were widespread, touching on social and psychological relations between the sexes and within the family.

In this chapter, I discuss the changing economic situation of women in the United States and draw some parallels between the American experience and that in Japan. I show, first, that economic forces have largely induced the rising fraction of American women who were in the labor force. These economic forces have eliminated marriage and then childbearing as total barriers to women's paid market work. Because of the interaction of these economic forces with women's schooling, the choice between a career and the home has become a far more difficult one, with many women now casting their votes for the job. Second, I discuss some of the consequences of childbearing on American women's labor market outcomes. the outcomes I highlight are labor supply, asset accumulation and family consumption, child care, and women's wages. Finally, I make forecasts about what will happen to American women's wages throughout the remainder of the twentieth century. It turns out that the labor market future American women face is a far brighter one than most observers predict.

Throughout this chapter, the conclusions I draw will largely rely on results from research projects on the status of American women that I and my colleagues at rand have been involved with for some time. Although the purpose of this chapter is not to conduct a comparative . . .

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