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Families That Work

Policies for Reconciling Parenthood and Employment

Janet C. Gornick, Marcia K. Meyers

Publication Year: 2003

Parents around the world grapple with the common challenge of balancing work and child care. Despite common problems, the industrialized nations have developed dramatically different social and labor market policies—policies that vary widely in the level of support they provide for parents and the extent to which they encourage an equal division of labor between parents as they balance work and care. In Families That Work, Janet Gornick and Marcia Meyers take a close look at the work-family policies in the United States and abroad and call for a new and expanded role for the U.S. government in order to bring this country up to the standards taken for granted in many other Western nations. In many countries in Europe and in Canada, family leave policies grant parents paid time off to care for their young children, and labor market regulations go a long way toward ensuring that work does not overwhelm family obligations. In addition, early childhood education and care programs guarantee access to high-quality care for their children. In most of these countries, policies encourage gender equality by strengthening mothers’ ties to employment and encouraging fathers to spend more time caregiving at home. In sharp contrast, Gornick and Meyers show how in the United States—an economy with high labor force participation among both fathers and mothers—parents are left to craft private solutions to the society-wide dilemma of “who will care for the children?” Parents—overwhelmingly mothers—must loosen their ties to the workplace to care for their children; workers are forced to negotiate with their employers, often unsuccessfully, for family leave and reduced work schedules; and parents must purchase care of dubious quality, at high prices, from consumer markets. By leaving child care solutions up to hard-pressed working parents, these private solutions exact a high price in terms of gender inequality in the workplace and at home, family stress and economic insecurity, and—not least—child well-being. Gornick and Meyers show that it is possible–based on the experiences of other countries—to enhance child well-being and to increase gender equality by promoting more extensive and egalitarian family leave, work-time, and child care policies. Families That Work demonstrates convincingly that the United States has much to learn from policies in Europe and in Canada, and that the often-repeated claim that the United States is simply “too different” to draw lessons from other countries is based largely on misperceptions about policies in other countries and about the possibility of policy expansion in the United States.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii

About the Authors

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pp. ix


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pp. xi-xii

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1. Introduction: The Conflicts Between Earning and Caring

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pp. 1-23

IMAGINE A WORLD in which mothers could take a few months away from their jobs following the birth or adoption of a child, without sacrificing either job security or their paychecks. Imagine a world in which both mothers and fathers could...

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2. The Changing American Family and the Problem of Private Solutions

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pp. 24-57

AMERICAN FAMILIES ARE struggling. In the United States, fragmented contemporary discourses about the family cast these struggles alternately as the failure of parents to provide adequately for their children, as the difficulties women...

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3. The United States in Cross-National Perspective: Are Parents and Children Doing Better Elsewhere?

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pp. 58-83

AMERICAN FAMILIES ARE not alone in the demands they encounter on their time and energy. In all industrialized and industrializing countries, working families are at the epicenter of tensions arising from changing gender norms...

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4. Reconciling the Conflicts: Toward a Dual-Earner-Dual Career Society

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pp. 84-111

IN RECENT DECADES, feminist social theorists—mostly in Europe— have engaged in a critical reexamination of the concept of social citizenship. Feminist scholars argue that a crucial shortcoming in twentieth-century citizenship theory...

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5. Ensuring Time to Care During the Early Years: Family Leave Policies

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pp. 112-146

THE MODEL OF an earner-carer society assumes that both mothers and fathers will have time for caregiving, intensively in the early weeks and months of their children’s lives, and as needed during later childhood.1 Public family leave...

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6. Strengthening Reduced-Hour Work: Regulation of Working Time

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pp. 147-184

IN THE PARTIALLY transformed world in which most parents now live and work, time is scarce as they balance long hours in the workplace with the demands of caregiving at home. A central assumption of the earner-carer model...

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7. Providing Public Care: Child Care, Preschool, and Public Schooling

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pp. 185-235

SUBSTITUTE CHILD CARE is an essential form of support for parents combining earning and caring roles; parents cannot commit to work outside the home without alternatives for the care of their children. Child care is an equally important factor...

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8. Does Policy Matter? Linking Policies to Outcomes

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pp. 236-267

IN THE PRECEDING chapters, we have described models for government policies that could help to reduce the time squeeze on employed parents, promote the well-being of children, and achieve greater gender equality in the labor market...

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9. Developing Earner-Carer Policies in the United States

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pp. 268-303

OUR SURVEY OF policy in other industrialized countries suggests that government policies that support parents in their earning and caring roles are institutionally and economically feasible. The empirical literature is encouraging regarding...

Appendix A: Description of Cross-National Data Sets Used

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pp. 305-308

Appendix B: Summary of Selected European Union Directives

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pp. 309-313

Appendix C: Construction of Policy Indexes

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pp. 315-320


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pp. 321-349


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pp. 351-380


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pp. 381-392

E-ISBN-13: 9781610442510
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871543561
Print-ISBN-10: 0871543567

Page Count: 408
Publication Year: 2003