Handbook of Family Policy
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Handbook of Family Policy

Edited by Guðný B. Eydal and Tine Rostgaard

The Handbook of Family Policy examines how state and workplace policies support parents and their children in developing, earning and caring. With original contributions from 44 leading scholars, this Handbook provides readers with up-to-date knowledge on family policies and family policy research, taking stock of current literature as well as providing analyses of present-day policies, and where they should head in the future.
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Chapter 14: The UK and the US: liberal models despite family policy expansion?

Dorian R. Woods


The liberal cases of the UK and the US are characterized by implicit and residual family policy with a high tolerance for inequality. However, family policy measures have undergone transformations, making them more explicit and extensive in the last couple of decades. Such growth calls for a re-examination of these liberal market-family-state dynamics. The chapter by Woods asks to what extent developments in the US and the UK from the 1980s to the present have followed a liberal agenda and it examines their similarities and differences. First, the theoretical approach to liberal family policy is explored. Following this, the chapter analyses British and US-American agendas, policy settings and instruments of income maintenance, child care, tax credits and family leave. The conclusion finds that the UK and US have followed similar trajectories with liberal tendencies, such as upholding personal choice, individualism and primacy of the market. This emphasis has remained constant during an uncharacteristic expansion of explicit family policy in the liberal cases. Differences between the UK and the US, however, are apparent in terms of generosity and eligibility. Some differences can be traced to historical institutionalism and party politics as well as differing approaches to child poverty advocacy and gender, race and ethnicity issues.

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