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Careers II


Fri 28. 8.  16:00 - 17:30
room FA 548

The Impact of Women’s Birth Spacing Behavior on their Long-Term Career - an International Comparison


Brehm, Uta
BAGSS, University of Bamberg, Germany

The contribution presents a proposed edited volume which collects and compares studies across Western countries. Its aim is to examine women’s birth spacing behavior, their employment history between births and these decisions’ effect on their long-term career. A particular focus is set on differences by education. In a first, initiating step, Brehm and Buchholz (2014) elaborated on the West German case by using data from the National Educational Panel Study. Findings show that the employment behavior of mothers of two children during their specific birth spacing has strong and complex effects on their peak occupational prestige at age 45. Specifically, results suggest that mothers’ full-time employment between births does not affect the career much differently from staying in unpaid caregiving altogether. However, any part-time employment during the spacing proved to impose a strong and significant negative effect on occupational prestige at age 45. This effect evinced to be considerably stronger the sooner first-time mothers decided to return to the labor market. While highly educated mothers could influence their career chances very positively by spacing both births shortly, the careers of mothers with low and intermediate education were greatly affected by their employment behavior between births. The authors argue that the severe impact of part-time employment between births is driven by mothers who cut back on their working hours in order to attain flexibility and time to care for their children. This behavior impedes their return into promising employments in the long run by getting mothers stuck on an occupationally detrimental ‘mommy track’. All across countries in Europe and North America, there has been extensive research and public debate on the reconciliation of work and family as well as the underlying policies and social norms in the last years. Predominantly, their focus is set on mothers' behavior in terms of returning to the labor market and its (financial) outcomes. Part-time employment is often politically praised to balance countries' pursuit of a gender-equal labor market against traditional family norms. However, the questions remain as to how any return and employment behavior between births affects women's chances on a career in the very long run - and how they compare across countries with different norms and policies. Evidence from Germany passes a rather detrimental first verdict regarding part-time employment and highly educated mothers' long birth spacing. The proposed volume aims to address these issues on an international scale. Brehm, Uta; Buchholz, Sandra (2014): Is there a Wrong Time for a Right Decision? The Impact of the Timing of First Births and the Spacing of Second Births on Women’s Careers. In Zeitschrift für Familienforschung 26 (3), pp. 269–301.