Should Mothers of Preschoolers Work for Pay? Changing Attitudes in Seven Countries, 1988-2002

Judith Treas, University of California, Irvine
Tsui-o Tai, University of California, Irvine

This paper moves beyond single-country studies to analyze how women’s attitudes toward maternal employment changed between 1988 and 2002 in seven industrialized countries--Austria, Germany (West), Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the US. Considering attitudes regarding mothers of preschool children, we address three questions: 1) How did approval of working mothers with preschool children change over time? 2) What respondent characteristics predict support for working mothers? 3) To what extent were attitudes driven by changes in population composition? International Social Survey Program data show widespread increases in approval of mothers working (41.6% in 1988, 59.4% in 2002) although the trend favored part-time over full-time employment. Fairlie decompositions find that support was, in part, accounted for by increases in educational attainment and the employment of respondents and their mothers, as well as by a decrease in religious affiliation. Population aging slightly offset these shifts.

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Presented in Poster Session 3