Academic journal article Population

Family Formation and Labour Force Participation Maternal Employment and Educational Differentials in Europe

Academic journal article Population

Family Formation and Labour Force Participation Maternal Employment and Educational Differentials in Europe

Article excerpt

Female labour force participation in Europe increased between the 1970s and the 2000s, with the greatest rise for mothers (Hynes and Clarkberg, 2005). Mothers of young children now re-enter the workforce more quickly after childbirth, suggesting that the male breadwinner model is steadily losing ground (Dex et al., 1998; Gaudet et al., 2011). Despite the rise in maternal employment, the impact of family formation on labour market positions continues to be much stronger for women than for men. As a result, contemporary policy-makers and social policy researchers highlight the importance of female employment in the prevention of poverty (Cantillon et al., 2001; Juby et al., 2005; Morel, 2007), as non-employment due to family formation may result in deteriorating human capital and wage potential (Beblo and Wolf, 2002; Gutiérrez-Domènech, 2005; Kenjoh, 2005), but also in higher unemployment risks and lower professional mobility in the long run (Felmlee, 1995; Shapiro and Mott, 1994).

The relation between family formation and female employment has been high on the demographic research agenda for decades (Becker, 1960). Research has found that mothers work less when (young) children are present in the household (Brewster and Rindfuss, 2000; Nakamura and Nakamura, 1994), but also that they increasingly return to the labour force as their children grow older (Dex et al., 1998; Giannelli, 1996; Joshi et al., 1996). However, relying on cross-sectional data, many contributions fail to control for employment before motherhood, which has been shown to affect maternal employment patterns (Gaudet et al., 2011; Kil et al., 2015; Matysiak and Vignoli, 2010; Nakamura and Nakamura, 1994).

Concerning educational differences, higher educated mothers are more likely to be employed (Dex et al., 1998), whereas lower educated mothers show stronger home attachment (Bernhardt, 1986). While many contributions assess educational differences in maternal employment, few distinguish between educational differences in employment before the onset of family formation and educational differences in the effect of fertility on employment.

This study adopts an original approach by decomposing educational differences in maternal employment into two components, i.e. the differences existing prior to motherhood and the differential effects of first and second births on employment. This allows us to assess whether educational differences in maternal employment are primarily driven by differential employment before parenthood or by different employment trajectories after childbearing. Hence, this study indicates whether social policies should target employment patterns before motherhood or the impact of childbearing on employment to reduce educational differentials in maternal employment.

This article studies France, the Netherlands and Hungary, as these countries reflect some of the strong variations in European social policy towards maternal employment (Salles et al., 2010). France is often grouped with Belgium and even Scandinavian countries where childcare provision enables mothers to remain in full-time employment with minimal career disruptions. The Netherlands, on the other hand, is frequently grouped with Germany, Italy and other OECD countries where family policies oblige mothers to (partlially) retreat from the labour force until their child enters the educational system (Anttonen and Sipilä, 1996; Gornick et al., 1997). Hungary is characterized by its communist legacy which has strongly influenced its contemporary social policy (Avdeyeva, 2009).

I. Educational differences in female employment in three countries

The developmental approach to women's employment behaviour (Blair-Loy, 2003; Garcia-Manglano, 2014; Gerson, 1986) combines explanatory narratives of both socialization theories and structural theories. Socialization theories emphasize that women's employment decisions are driven by their preferences and attitudes which are partly determined by socialization. …

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