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Female employment, institutions and the role of reference groups: a multilevel analysis of 22 European countries

  • Wim Van Lancker
  • Joris Ghysels

This article argues that the effect of policy institutions on female labor market participation is mediated by reference groups surrounding individual women. Using recent data on individual women between 20 and 49 years in 22 European countries, we distinguish between two types of institutions: public childcare availability and public sector employment. We hypothesize that both institutions are conducive to women’s employment but that the effect differs across different social groups. More generally the analysis aims at the identification of good practices, i.e. countries that succeed in shaping women-friendly circumstances on the labor market. By means of a logistic multilevel model, we find that both public childcare and public sector employment are associated with higher female employment chances. We also find that women embedded in different reference groups behave differently on the labor market, that public childcare provision and public sector employment are helpful to raise the odds of employment for lower and medium educated women respectively. Finally, we observe that, ceteris paribus, non-urban areas shape better employment opportunities than urban areas.

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Paper provided by Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp in its series Working Papers with number 1002.

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Date of creation: Feb 2010
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Handle: RePEc:hdl:wpaper:1002
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.centreforsocialpolicy.euEmail:


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  1. Alois Stutzer & Rafael Lalive, 2004. "The Role of Social Work Norms in Job Searching and Subjective Well-Being," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(4), pages 696-719, 06.
  2. Lundberg, Shelly, 1985. "The Added Worker Effect," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 11-37, January.
  3. David Neumark & Andrew Postlewaite, 1995. "Relative Income Concerns and the Rise in Married Women's Employment," NBER Working Papers 5044, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Sarah Irwin, 2004. "Attitudes, Care and Commitment: Pattern and Process," Sociological Research Online, Sociological Research Online, vol. 9(3), pages irwin.
  5. Andrew Clark, 2001. "Unemployment As A Social Norm: Psychological Evidence from Panel Data," DELTA Working Papers 2001-17, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  6. Van Klaveren, C. & Ghysel, J., 2009. "Collective Labor Supply and Child Care Expenditures: Theory and Application," Working Papers 26, Top Institute for Evidence Based Education Research.
  7. Esping-Andersen, Gosta, 1999. "Social Foundations of Postindustrial Economies," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198742005.
  8. Danièle Meulders & Jérôme De Henau & Sile Padraigin O'Dorchai, 2007. "Making time for working parents: comparing public childcare provision," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/7708, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  9. David Blau & Philip Robins, 1991. "Child care demand and labor supply of young mothers over time," Demography, Springer, vol. 28(3), pages 333-351, August.
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