Employment impacts on partnership and parenthood entry in different family-policy regimes

Michael S. Rendall, University of Maryland
Alessandra De Rose, Università di Roma "La Sapienza"
Ann Evans, Australian National University
Edith E. Gray, Australian National University
Doris Hanappi, University of California, Berkeley and Université de Lausanne
Frauke Kreute, University of Maryland
Trude Lappegard, Statistics Norway
Lori Reeder, University of Maryland
Marit Rønsen, Statistics Norway
Olivier Thevenon, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Laurent Toulemon, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

We explore how women and men’s employment interacts with family policy and social norms to produce differences in gender inequalities in the relationship of employment to partnering and first birth. Using comparable panel data from the 2000s across eight high-income countries, we estimate identical models of individual employment on women’s and men’s partnership entry and their transition to first parenthood, including for women unpartnered first births. Two countries are from ‘dual-earner’ (Norway and France), and three each from ‘liberal’ (Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), and ‘conservative’ (Germany, Italy, and Switzerland) family-policy regimes. We test three hypotheses generated from theory of reproductive polarization, in which family policy is claimed to play a central role in generating or mitigating socio-economic heterogeneity in family formation. We find support overall for our hypotheses. Women and men in ‘dual-earner’ regimes, in particular, have higher rates of entry to first parenthood when ‘full-year, full-time’ employed in the year prior to fertility exposure compared to those employed little or not at all in the year prior to fertility exposure. We find substantial variation between ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ regimes in fertility responses to employment, with unexpectedly positive relationships of being ‘full-year, full-time’ employed to first birth rates among German women, in contrast to expected negative relationships of employment to first birth rates among Australian women, especially when unpartnered. Partnered women’s proportions in full-time, full-year employment are surprisingly as much as 15 to 25 percentage points lower than partnered men’s proportions across the five countries for which we made this comparison. Later partnership entry in ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ regimes is an additional “regime” difference, offsetting the unexpectedly faster first entry to parenthood among employed partnered women and men especially in Germany.

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Presented in Session 75: Family formation and the labour market

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