06 Jan

Proposition 6 – Country-comparative questions are sometimes best answered by using person-level data

Country-comparative questions are sometimes best answered by using person-level data.

The goal of my dissertation was to answer country-comparative questions and yet I have consistently used person-level (and household-level) data to answer these questions. As this inevitably results in all kinds of complexities, one can wonder why I took this road.

Clearly, some of the answers I arrived at were suggested by previous studies as well. Indeed, based on analyses of country-level data we had quite a firm understanding that reconciliation policies improve women’s employment. But there are several disadvantages in using country-level data, that were summarized by Kittel using the term ‘Crazy Methodology’ (see Chapter 1 of my dissertation for more a more detailed discussion on this topic).

However, the most important reason for me to use person-level data to answer country-comparative research is to provide stronger tests of hypotheses on family policy outcomes and to answer new country-comparative questions. This led to various new insights. To name three:

  • Whereas family policies typically affect only mothers, a labor market characterized by a large service sector stimulates the employment of all women: both mothers and women without children. With only country-level data, we could not have made this distinction.
  • Reconciliation policies were found to be more effective among higher educated women (see also proposition 3)
  • Reconciliation policies were found to reduce earnings inequality both within and between households, and financial support policies were found to increase these inequalities. This is in line with proposition 5: Family policy arrangements that facilitate smaller earnings inequality within households also reduce inequality between households.

Thus, country-comparative questions are sometimes best answered by using person-level data, particularly when dealing with differences within countries.

This is a series on the 10 propositions that are part of my PhD dissertation. These propositions are a Dutch tradition to highlight key findings of a dissertation and some additional insights by the author. My dissertation is titled “Family Policy Outcomes: Combining Institutional and Demographic Explanations of Women’s Employment and Earnings Inequality in OECD countries, 1975-2005″ and I will defend my dissertation on January 10 2014. So, this series is also a count down. Find out more about my dissertation.

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