The Third Career: Revisiting the Home vs. Work Choice in Middle Age

By Milica Z. Bookman | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
Social Benefits: The Economic Contribution of Women with Choices

Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor both stayed at home when their children were young. Albright had never worked until her children reached school age, while O'Conner worked as an attorney and then left her law practice to care for her young children. 1 They both made the choice to stay home with their children and pursue careers only later in life. For all the cases of famous women who have entered the labor force in middle age there are thousands and thousands of unknown women who have taken the same path. They have believed that it is possible to have a meaningful and fulfilling work life even if it is postponed until their forties or fifties.

When women revisit their former employment choices and make the decision to start working for pay, benefits accrue to them personally as well as to society at large. Obviously, women pursue employment goals because doing so maximizes their personal benefits and not because it is good for society. However, their actions have enough economic consequences that social scientists should pay attention.

The purpose of this chapter is to explore these economic consequences. Questions are raised such as: What is the economic potential of middle-aged homemakers and what is the nature of the contribution these women can make to the economy? In order to answer those questions, it is necessary first to explore the occupational possibilities that exist for middle-aged women if they choose to pursue their aspirations in the labor market.

This focus on women's economic contribution in the labor force does not negate their enormous contribution to the economy in their capacity as homemakers. While the economic role of stay-at-home moms is often overlooked, there are three important ways in which they make a contribution to the economy. First, homemakers take care of the home and its members; they provide the glue that holds the family together and the oil that lubricates its hinges. On a more concrete level, they prepare the meals, drive the children, and pay the bills. As such, they are producers of goods and services. While these goods and services are not traded in the market, they nevertheless have

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The Third Career: Revisiting the Home vs. Work Choice in Middle Age
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Part I REALITIES xix
  • Chapter 1: The Profile of Middle-Aged Women with Choices 1
  • Chapter 2: Evolving Expectations of Women with Choices 17
  • Part II INCENTIVES 43
  • Chapter 3 the Transformation of Aspirations 45
  • Notes 60
  • Chapter 4: The Redefinition of Leisure 63
  • Chapter 5: The Reevaluation of Volunteer Work 79
  • Part III CONDITIONS 89
  • Chapter 7: The Accommodating Work Environment 101
  • Part IV CAPACITIES 119
  • Chapter 8: Advantages to Be Harnessed 121
  • Chapter 9: Obstacles to Be Overcome 137
  • Part V BENEFITS 155
  • Chapter 10 Social Benefits: the Economic Contribution of Women with Choices 157
  • Notes 177
  • Chapter 11: Individual Benefits 179
  • Appendix I Method 189
  • Notes 192
  • Appendix II Empirical Overview: Women with Choices in America and in the Sample 193
  • Notes 197
  • Appendix III The Survey 199
  • Selected Bibliography 211
  • Index 215
  • About the Author 219
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