Which Comes First? The Early-Adulthood Sequencing of First Employment and First Birth Among Cohorts of U.S. Women Before and After the 1990s Welfare Reform

24.06.2015 - 11:00
A 5,6 Raum A 231
Art der Veranstaltung: 
AB A-Kolloquium
Michael S. Rendall
Zugehörigkeit des Vortragenden: 
University of Maryland

One of the goals of family policy in ‘universalist’ regimes is to enable women to start a family after first obtaining secure employment. In ‘liberal’ family-policy regimes, whose primary instruments are means-tested benefits directed mostly towards single-mother families, this goal had notably not been realized for U.S. women from backgrounds of socioeconomic disadvantage. The U.S.’ policy reforms of the mid-1990s were accordingly aimed at encouraging maternal employment, and included reducing non-marital childbearing as part of achieving this overall goal. Evidence of the reforms’ success included large immediate gains in single mothers’ employment and large declines in teenage fertility. Nevertheless we know little about any change in the life-course sequencing of women’s employment and family formation after the reforms. We address this in the present study for the cohorts of women who entered their childbearing and workforce ages alternately before or after the reforms. We analyze data on women who were observed retrospectively in the 1995, 2002, and 2006-2010 rounds of the cross-sectional National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) and in the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) panel survey’s 1996, 2001, 2004, and 2008 waves, comparing their ages at first substantial job or employment with their ages at first birth. We find that the sequence of having a first birth before first substantial employment or job became even more prevalent after the welfare reforms, whereas had the reforms goals been met we would have expected a reduction in this type of sequence. We discuss these findings in the contexts of both the structure of means-tested family policy and broader trends towards greater divergence in family-demographic paths by socio-economic status in the U.S. and other countries with ‘liberal’ family-policy regimes.