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Employment trajectories for mothers in low-skilled work: Evidence from the British Lone Parent Cohort


  • Kitty Stewart


UK government policy encourages mothers of young children in low-income families to enter or return to work, via tax credit subsidies and support for childcare. Maternal employment is seen a central plank in the campaign against child poverty, both because it raises income immediately and because working now is seen as paving the way to better employment prospects in the future. But there is little evidence about medium- and long-term outcomes for mothers entering low skilled employment. We know little about how likely such women are to remain in work, let alone how likely they are to progress to higher skilled and better paid jobs. This paper uses a dataset which tracked lone mothers from 1991 to 2001 to examine employment trajectories for 560 mothers with a youngest child under five at the start of the period. It creates a typology of trajectories over the decade, identifying the share of women broadly stable in work, those broadly stable at home and those following unstable pathways between the two. It goes on to explore the factors associated with different pathways, asking whether individual and household characteristics, job characteristics, or circumstantial factors such as re-partnering are most important. Finally, the paper examines differences in wage progression across groups of women following different pathways, and similarly tries to identify the main factors associated with faster progress.

Suggested Citation

  • Kitty Stewart, 2007. "Employment trajectories for mothers in low-skilled work: Evidence from the British Lone Parent Cohort," CASE Papers case122, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:sticas:case122

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Joshi, Heather & Macran, Susan & Dex, Shirley, 1996. "Employment after Childbearing and Women's Subsequent Labour Force Participation: Evidence from the British 1958 Birth Cohort," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 9(3), pages 325-348, August.
    2. Burgess, Simon & Gregg, Paul & Propper, Carol & Washbrook, Elizabeth, 2008. "Maternity rights and mothers' return to work," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 168-201, April.
    3. Helen Connolly & Peter Gottschalk & Katherine Newman, 2003. "Wage Trajectories of Workers in Poor Households," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 555, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 25 Jul 2005.
    4. Blank, Rebecca M & Ruggles, Patricia, 1994. "Short-Term Recidivism among Public-Assistance Recipients," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 49-53, May.
    5. Jane Waldfogel, 2006. "What do children need?," Public Policy Review, Institute for Public Policy Research, vol. 13(1), pages 26-34.
    6. Ermisch, John & Francesconi, Marco, 2000. "The effect of parents' employment on children's educational attainment," ISER Working Paper Series 2000-31, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    7. Jane Waldfogel & Wen-Jui Han & Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, 2002. "The effects of early maternal employment on child cognitive development," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 39(2), pages 369-392, May.
    8. Timothy J. Bartik, 1997. "Short-Term Employment Persistence for Welfare Recipients: The "Effects" of Wages, Industry, Occupation and Firm," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 97-46, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    9. Duncan McVicar & Michael Anyadike-Danes, 2002. "Predicting successful and unsuccessful transitions from school to work by using sequence methods," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 165(2), pages 317-334.
    10. Heather Joshi & Shirley Dex & Susan Macran, 1996. "Employment after childbearing and women`s subsequent labour force participation: Evidence from the British 1958 birth cohort," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 9(3), pages 325-348.
    11. David Shapiro & Frank L. Mott, 1994. "Long-Term Employment and Earnings of Women in Relation to Employment Behavior Surrounding the First Birth," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 29(2), pages 248-275.
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    More about this item


    maternal employment; employment trajectories; wage progression;

    JEL classification:

    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials


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