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Women's Opportunities under Different Constellations of Family Policies in Western Countries: Inequality Tradeoffs Re-examined


  • Korpi, Walter

    () (Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University)

  • Ferrarini, Tommy

    () (Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University)

  • Englund, Stefan

    () (Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University)


Women’s rising labor force participation since the 1960’s was long seen as heralding decreasing gender inequalities. According to influential social science writings this view has now to be revised; “women friendly” policies bringing women into the workforce are held to create major inequality tradeoffs between quantity and quality in women’s jobs. Unintendedly, such policies increase employer statistical discrimination and create glass ceilings impeding women’s access to influential positions and high wages. This paper re-examines theoretical and empirical bases in analysis of family policy effects on gender inequalities. Including capabilities as well as earnings in definitions of gender inequality, we improve possibilities for causal analyses by mapping institutional constellations of separate dimensions of family policies in Western countries. Reflecting conflicting political forces as well as religion, contrary to accepted assumptions of uni-dimensionality, family policies are multi-dimensional, with main distinctions favoring traditional families, mother’s employment, or market reliance. Using multilevel analyses and broad sets of outcome variables, we show that methodological mistakes largely invalidate earlier causal interpretations of major tradeoffs between quantity and quality in women’s labor force participation. Positive policy effects facilitate work-family reconciliation and combine women’s increased labor force participation with relatively high fertility. While major negative policy effects for women with tertiary education are difficult to find, family policies clearly differ in the extent to which they improve opportunities for women without university degrees.

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  • Korpi, Walter & Ferrarini, Tommy & Englund, Stefan, 2011. "Women's Opportunities under Different Constellations of Family Policies in Western Countries: Inequality Tradeoffs Re-examined," Working Paper Series 2/2011, Stockholm University, Swedish Institute for Social Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:sofiwp:2011_002

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    1. Lane Kenworthy & Alexander Hicks, 2002. "Varieties of Welfare Capitalism," LIS Working papers 316, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    2. Wiji Arulampalam & Alison L. Booth & Mark L. Bryan, 2007. "Is There a Glass Ceiling over Europe? Exploring the Gender Pay Gap across the Wage Distribution," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 60(2), pages 163-186, January.
    3. Kenworthy, Lane, 2008. "Jobs with Equality," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199550609, June.
    4. James Albrecht & Anders Bjorklund & Susan Vroman, 2003. "Is There a Glass Ceiling in Sweden?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(1), pages 145-177, January.
    5. Blau Francine D & Kahn Lawrence M, 2007. "The Gender Pay Gap," The Economists' Voice, De Gruyter, vol. 4(4), pages 1-6, June.
    6. Sophia Rabe-Hesketh & Anders Skrondal, 2012. "Multilevel and Longitudinal Modeling Using Stata, 3rd Edition," Stata Press books, StataCorp LP, edition 3, number mimus2, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Wim Van Lancker, 2013. "Putting the child-centred investment strategy to the test: Evidence for the EU27," Working Papers 1301, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.

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