Handbook on Gender and Social Policy
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Handbook on Gender and Social Policy

Edited by Sheila Shaver

Providing a state of the art overview, this comprehensive Handbook is an essential introduction to the subject of Gender and Social Policy. Bringing together original contributions and research from leading researchers it covers the theoretical perspectives of the field, the central policy terrain of gender inequalities of income, employment and care, and family policy. Examining gender and social policy at both the regional and national level, the Handbook is an excellent resource for advanced students and scholars of sociology, political science, women’s studies, policy studies as well as practitioners seeking to understand how gender shapes the contours of social policy and politics.
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Chapter 7: Gender and economic inequality

Susan Harkness


This chapter looks at how gender shapes inequalities, between individuals and households, in high-income countries. Recent decades have seen rapid changes in women’s employment and earnings, and this has implications for gender equality and inequalities between households. In the first part of this chapter we examine changes in gender gaps in employment and earnings over recent decades. Increases in female employment have been associated with reduced income inequality. Even so, women remain disproportionately likely to be poor. This is in part because, while women are in a better position to command an independent income, changes in family structure and particularly the growth in single-parent families, mean that increases in earned income have not always been translated into higher household income. Recent decades have also seen increasing heterogeneity in the experience of women. While the expansion of education has been a key driver of the improved economic position of women, the experience of those with different levels of education has diversified sharply; less educated women are much less likely to work for pay, and much more likely to experience single parenthood, than those with higher levels of education. Throughout, we explore how such differences between women are emerging, and at how policy affects these outcomes.

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