Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

A New Look at Family Migration and Women's Employment Status

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

A New Look at Family Migration and Women's Employment Status

Article excerpt

Family migration has a negative impact on women's employment status. Using longitudinal data from the British Household Panel Survey (3,617 women; 22,354 women/wave observations) we consider two neglected issues. First, instead of relying on the distance moved to distinguish employment-related migrations, we use information on the reason for moving, allowing us to separate employment-related moves, stimulated by the man or the woman, from other moves. Second, we consider selection effects and the role of state dependence in relation to women's employment status prior to moving. Moving for the sake of the man's job has a significant negative effect on subsequent employment status for previously employed women. Women who were not employed previously benefited only slightly from family migration.

Key Words: gender theory, labor force participation, longitudinal, panel studies.

The influence of "family migration," or the long-distance moves of partnered individuals, on employment status has attracted a considerable literature over the past 30 or so years. The general consensus is that families are more likely to move in support of the man's career and that the woman's employment status is likely to suffer as a result of such moves. According to human capital theory, families weigh the benefits of overall gains associated with a move on behalf of one person's career against the negative effects of disrupting the partner's employment (Becker, 1974). Although a genderless theory, moves tend to be made to support the man's career more often than the women's and, as a result, women are more likely to be "trailing spouses" or "tied migrants."

More recently, there have been some moves away from relatively crude human capital interpretations and many argue for a more nuanced approach that recognizes the influence of gendered family resources (e.g., Bielby & Bielby, 1992; Halfacree, 1995; Juerges, 1998, 2006; Shauman & Noonan, 2007; Shihadeh, 1991). Thus, Boyle, Cooke, Halfacree, and Smith (1999a) showed that women are more likely to be unemployed or economically inactive following long-distance family migration even in those cases when the women had a higher status occupation than their partner. This does not seem to accord with a gender-neutral human capital model. Also, we need to recognize that women may suffer from family moves even when the underlying reason was not employment focused. Even short-distance changes in residence can influence psychological well-being and depression, particularly among women who are often expected to cope with the practicalities of moving house (Brett, 1980; Makowsky, Cook, Berger, & Powell, 1988; Weissman & Paykel, 1972). These include arranging for the movement of household possessions, acquiring new household items, and, for those with children, organizing child care and other child-centered activities (Magdol, 2002). It may be that these types of effects will have an influence on women's desire or ability to work in the labor market, even following shorter-distance moves.

Numerous early studies confirmed that women's labor market status suffers as a result of family migration (e.g., Lichter, 1980, 1982; Long, 1974; Mincer, 1978; Morrison & Lichter, 1988; Sjaastad, 1962; Spitze, 1984) and, more recently, Boyle, Half aeree, and Smith (1999) used comparative, cross-national data for the United Kingdon and the United States at the beginning of the 1990s and showed that women continued to be more likely to be out of work following family migration (Boyle, Cooke, Halfacree, & Smith, 1 999b, 200 1 ). This result was remarkably consistent in the United Kingdom and the United States (Boyle, Cooke, Halfacree, & Smith, 2002), even controlling for motherhood status (Boyle, Cooke, Halfacree, & Smith, 2003) and the relative occupational status of the partners (Boyle et al., 1999a). Other recent studies confirm these broad conclusions (Bailey & Cooke, 1998; Cooke, 2001; Jacobsen & Levin, 1997, 2000; Shihadeh, 1991 ; Smits, 1999; Taylor, 2007), although some cast doubt over the importance of these findings. …

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