Patterns of labor market assimilation for
married immigrant women are similar to those for men
What is the role of married women in immigrant
households? Their contribution to the labor market has traditionally been
considered of secondary importance and studied in the framework of temporary
attachment to the labor force to support the household around the time of
arrival. But this role has changed. Evidence from major immigrant-receiving
countries suggests that married immigrant women make labor supply decisions
similar to those recently observed for native-born married women, who are
guided by their own opportunities in the labor market rather than by their
spouses’ employment trajectories.
Government policies can have a modest effect on
raising fertility—but broader social changes lowering fertility are
Since 1989 fertility and family formation have
declined sharply in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Fertility rates are converging on—and sometimes falling below—rates in
Western Europe, most of which are below replacement levels. Concerned about
a shrinking and aging population and strains on pension systems, governments
are using incentives to encourage people to have more children. These
policies seem only modestly effective in countering the impacts of
widespread social changes, including new work opportunities for women and
stronger incentives to invest in education.
The success of universal preschool education depends crucially
on the policy parameters and specific country context
Since the 1970s, many countries have established free or highly
subsidized education for all preschool children in the hope of improving children’s learning
and socio-economic life chances and encouraging mothers to join the labor force. Evaluations
reveal that these policies can increase maternal employment in the short term and may continue
to do so even after the child is no longer in preschool by enabling mothers to gain more job
skills and increase their attachment to the labor force. However, their effectiveness depends
on the policy design, the country context, and the characteristics of mothers of
Generous parental leave and affordable,
high-quality childcare can foster children’s abilities
The economic and psychological literatures have
demonstrated that early investments (private and public) in children can
significantly increase cognitive outcomes in the short and long term and
contribute to success later in life. One of the most important of these
inputs is maternal time. Women’s participation in the labor market has risen
rapidly in most countries, implying that mothers spend less time with their
children and that families rely more on external sources of childcare. This
trend has raised concerns, and an intense debate in several countries has
focused on the effectiveness of childcare policies.
A range of other policies and changes are needed
for childcare expansion to increase mothers’ labor supply
In 2002, the EU set targets for expanding
childcare coverage, but most of the post-socialist countries are behind
schedule. While childcare expansion places a heavy financial burden on
governments, low participation in the labor force by mothers, especially
those with children under the age of three, implies a high potential impact.
However, the effectiveness of childcare expansion may be limited by some
common characteristics of these countries: family policies that do not
support women’s labor market re-entry, few flexible work opportunities, and
cultural norms about family and gender roles shaped by the institutional and
economic legacy of socialism.
What are the implications of childcare subsidies
for care quality, family well-being, and child development?
Most public expenditure on childcare in the US is made through a federal program, the Child Care and Development Fund
(CCDF), established as part of landmark welfare reform legislation in 1996.
The main goal of the reform was to increase employment and reduce welfare
dependence among low-income families. Childcare subsidies have been
effective in enabling parents to work, but apparently at some cost to the
well-being of parents and children.
A mix of policies could be the solution to
reducing discrimination in the labor market
Discrimination is a complex, multi-factor
phenomenon. Evidence shows widespread discrimination on various grounds,
including ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or
beliefs, disability, being over 55 years old, or being a woman. Combating
discrimination requires combining the strengths of a range of
anti-discrimination policies while also addressing their weaknesses. In
particular, policymakers should thoroughly address prejudice (taste-based
discrimination), stereotypes (statistical discrimination), cognitive biases,
and attention-based discrimination.
Subsidized childcare fosters maternal
employment, but employment status, childcare quality, and availability
Women’s labor force participation has rapidly
increased in most countries, but mothers still struggle to achieve a
satisfactory work−life balance. Childcare allows the primary caregiver,
usually the mother, to take time away from childrearing for employment.
Family policies that subsidize childcare and increase its availability have
different effects on female labor supply across countries. For policymakers
to determine how well these policies work, they should consider that policy
effectiveness may depend on country-specific pre-reform female employment
and earnings, and childcare availability, costs, and quality.
Joint child custody laws affect not only
divorced families but intact families as well
Custody laws governing living arrangements for
children following their parents’ divorce have changed dramatically since
the 1970s. Traditionally, one parent—usually the mother—was assigned sole
custody of the child. Today, many divorced parents continue to share
parental rights and responsibilities through joint custody arrangements.
While joint custody laws have improved the situation of divorced fathers,
recent empirical research has documented intended and unintended
consequences of joint custody laws for families in such areas as family
formation, labor force participation, suicide, domestic violence, and child
Public education tends to crowd out parents’
time and money, but careful policy design may mitigate this
Many countries around the world are making
substantial and increasing public investments in children by providing
resources for schooling from early years through to adolescence. Recent
research has looked at how parents respond to children’s schooling
opportunities, highlighting that public inputs can alternatively encourage
or crowd out parental inputs. Most evidence finds that parents reduce their
own efforts as schooling improves, dampening the efficiency of government
expenditure. Policymakers may thus want to focus government provision on
schooling inputs that are less easily substituted.