9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN14 Gender Relations in the Labour Market and the Welfare State

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Types of Work and Quality of Working Life Building AA, AA.223

Highly educated dual earners - myth or reality? An investigation of cross-national variations in educational effects on household employment patterns

Economic theory predicts that more highly educated women are more likely to be employed due to their higher earnings power and thus opportunity costs of non-employment. Using data from two waves of the European Social Survey, we find this pattern to hold across different European countries. Yet, we do find marked cross-national variations in education effects. To date, there is surprisingly little work aimed at the investigation and explanation of cross-national differences in education effects on women´s employment patterns. This paper aims to fill this gap. To gain a better understanding of national differences, we investigate the effects of women´s and their partners´ education on household employment patterns across different phases in the family life-cycle (according to the presence/age of dependent children). Most interesting cross-national variations emerge when a life course perspective is taken and when the focus of the analysis is shifted from the individual level (women´s employment) to the household level. The paper contributes to important debates on future trends in men´s and women´s employment and the polarisation into rich dual earner households, on the one hand, and workless households, on the other. It discusses cross-national differences against the backdrop of employment regimes and the associated variations in the labour market chances of the lower skilled parts of the population and of welfare state regimes and the associated variations in work incentives for the lower skilled as well as in state support for continuous female employment. The paper ends with a discussion of the implications of the current economic crisis on household employment patterns in the light of the fact that the lowest skilled tend to be most at risk of job loss in times of economic turn-down.