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Health inequalities between lone and couple mothers and policy under different welfare regimes - The example of Italy, Sweden and Britain


  • Burstrom, Bo
  • Whitehead, Margaret
  • Clayton, Stephen
  • Fritzell, Sara
  • Vannoni, Francesca
  • Costa, Giuseppe


This study examines the welfare state arrangements and social policy, living conditions and health among lone and couple mothers in three contrasting policy environments: Italy, Sweden and Britain. These countries fall into distinctive family policy categories. Data were drawn from representative national household interview surveys. The findings highlight both similarities and differences. Lone mothers had significantly worse health than couple mothers in all three countries, were more likely to suffer material disadvantage and were much more likely to be smokers. They could be considered a disadvantaged group in particular need in all three countries, irrespective of the policy regime. It is the differences between countries, however, in the experiences of lone and couple mothers that indicate that the prevailing policy regime really does matter. There were telling differences in the prevalence of lone motherhood, their composition, rates of joblessness, poverty and health status of lone mothers in relation to couple mothers in each country. These may be traced back to the main policy regimes of each country, but also partly reflect culture and traditions. The study illustrates an emerging approach to investigating the health inequalities impact of complex social policy contexts. The experiences of lone mothers as a group may serve as a 'litmus' test of how each family policy system is operating and offer an early warning of adverse impacts when policies change.

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  • Burstrom, Bo & Whitehead, Margaret & Clayton, Stephen & Fritzell, Sara & Vannoni, Francesca & Costa, Giuseppe, 2010. "Health inequalities between lone and couple mothers and policy under different welfare regimes - The example of Italy, Sweden and Britain," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(6), pages 912-920, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:70:y:2010:i:6:p:912-920

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fritzell, Sara & Burstrom, Bo, 2006. "Economic strain and self-rated health among lone and couple mothers in Sweden during the 1990s compared to the 1980s," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 79(2-3), pages 253-264, December.
    2. Wisdom, Jennifer P. & Berlin, Michelle & Lapidus, Jodi A., 2005. "Relating health policy to women's health outcomes," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(8), pages 1776-1784, October.
    3. Anonymous, 1997. "The Forecasting and Policy System: an introduction," Reserve Bank of New Zealand Bulletin, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, vol. 60, September.
    4. Whitehead, Margaret & Burström, Bo & Diderichsen, Finn, 2000. "Social policies and the pathways to inequalities in health: a comparative analysis of lone mothers in Britain and Sweden," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 255-270, January.
    5. Jenkins, Stephen P & Symons, Elizabeth J, 2001. "Child Care Costs and Lone Mothers' Employment Rates: UK Evidence," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 69(2), pages 121-147, March.
    6. Tarja K. Viitanen, 2005. "Cost of Childcare and Female Employment in the UK," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 19(s1), pages 149-170, December.
    7. anonymous, 1997. "New $50 bill introduced," Financial Update, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, issue Oct, pages 1-4.
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    Cited by:

    1. Maskileyson, Dina, 2014. "Healthcare system and the wealth–health gradient: A comparative study of older populations in six countries," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 18-26.
    2. Aitken, Zoe & Garrett, Cameryn C. & Hewitt, Belinda & Keogh, Louise & Hocking, Jane S. & Kavanagh, Anne M., 2015. "The maternal health outcomes of paid maternity leave: A systematic review," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 32-41.


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