Invited Lecture: Reforming Social Security Lunch Seminar Series (University of Leiden)

I was invited to present my research at the “Reforming Social Security Lunch Seminar Series” of the university of Leiden. The lecture will be on Friday, February 22nd. Below an abstract of this lecture is given.

Institutional and Demographic Explanations of Women’s Employment
Family policies have stimulated women’s employment in OECD countries in recent decades. Women also gained a stronger position on the labour market with higher status positions and higher wages. As a result of this stronger position of women on the labour market, earnings inequality between men and women, and within households, decreased. Of course, the strong increase of women’s employment was not only explained by the implementation of family policies, but for instance also by women’s rising educational levels and decreasing fertility. In my dissertation (to be completed this year) I address the interplay between these institutional and demographic explanations of women’s employment.

First, I will outline the background of my dissertation. I argue that studies solely using macro-level data to study the outcomes of family policies on women’s employment are limited in two ways. First, they run the risk of committing an ecological fallacy, which is best illustrated by the observation that after 1985, the cross-country correlation between fertility and women’s employment turned positive. Second, I argue that studies using only macro-level data – despite the advantages of such data – are limited in the type of questions they can answer and cannot properly account for demographic changes. In other words: using solely macro-level data, studies cannot account for the combination of institutional and demographic explanations of women’s employment. I will illustrate my argument based on two chapters in my dissertation.

Secondly, I will detail a third chapter, which addresses the question whether the increased availability of family policies have the unexpected result of increased the earnings inequalities between households. I present a (very) preliminary analysis of a decomposition of earnings inequalities between households, in 17 OECD countries from 1975 to 2005. The results suggest that in societies with extensive reconciliation policies, women’s earnings have a stronger attenuating effect on the inequality between households. In contrast, in societies with extensive financial support policies, the attenuating effects of women’s earnings on household inequalities is weaker. It is well known that earnings inequalities between households have been increasing in recent decades. This analysis suggests that there is no ground to the concern that family policies have contributed to this trend. On the contrary: societies that provide an institutional context facilitating small inequalities within households, also tend to attenuate the inequalities between households.

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