Changing Family Dynamics and Demographic Evolution

Changing Family Dynamics and Demographic Evolution

The Family Kaleidoscope

Edited by Dimitri Mortelmans, Koenraad Matthijs, Elisabeth Alofs and Barbara Segaert

Whether considered from an American or a European perspective, the past four decades have seen family life become increasingly complex. Changing Family Dynamics and Demographic Evolution examines the various stages of change through the image of a kaleidoscope, providing new insights into the field of family dynamics and diversity.

Chapter 7: The educational gradient of maternal employment patterns in 11 European countries

David De Wachter, Karel Neels, Jonas Wood and Jorik Vergauwen

Subjects: social policy and sociology, family and gender policy


Maternal employment rates vary considerably among countries and this variation hides important educational differentials both in labour market attachment and selection into full-time and part-time employment. This chapter investigates the educational gradient of maternal employment patterns in 11 European countries. It further considers the association with formal and informal childcare. The authors use micro-data from the first round of the Generations and Gender Survey, supplemented with macro-data from EU-SILC. The analysis makes use of multilevel multinomial logit models. The results show that more highly educated women less often leave the labour force after childbirth, predominantly remaining employed full-time. Low-educated women more often leave the labour force after childbirth and more frequently work part-time. The main exceptions are Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, where mothers more often work part-time, particularly among highly educated groups. Full-time employment is highest among mothers living in countries with strong and weak public support for families with children. However, in countries with weak support, period fertility is quite low, suggesting high levels of work–family conflict. Childcare is positively associated with female employment and the association is more articulated for formal than for informal childcare. In sum, childbirth is strongly associated with female employment, but the magnitude and sign of the association differs for full-time and part-time work, interacts with education and varies between countries. This pattern is likely to show increasing diversity given that the recent economic downturn has reduced public spending on family policies and raised economic insecurities, particularly among vulnerable socio-economic groups.

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