[Paleopsych] Neil Gilbert: A New GOP?: What Do Women Really Want?

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Neil Gilbert: A New GOP?: What Do Women Really Want?
Winter 2005

    With journalists as well as social scientists continually on the
    lookout for new trends, the public is regularly treated to the
    discovery of social "revolutions." One of the latest concerns women
    and work. In October 2003, Lisa Belkin detected an "opt-out
    revolution" in her New York Times Magazine article about accomplished
    women leaving high-powered jobs to stay home with their kids. Six
    months later, reports on the revolution were still going strong. For
    example, the March 22, 2004 cover of Time showed a young child
    clinging to his mother's leg alongside the headline, "The Case for
    Staying Home: Why More Young Moms Are Opting Out of the Rat Race." But
    the evidence on this score is thin. Both the New York Times and Time
    stories are based mainly on evocative anecdotes. Princeton college
    graduates with law degrees from Harvard staying home to change diapers
    may be absorbing as a human-interest story. But as the saying goes,
    the plural of anecdote is not data.

    The limited empirical evidence offered in support of the opt-out
    revolution draws upon facts such as these: 22 percent of mothers with
    graduate degrees are at home with their children, one in three women
    with an MBA does not work full time, and 26 percent of women
    approaching the most senior levels of management do not want to be
    promoted. However, with information of this sort one needs a ouija
    board to detect a social trend, let alone a revolution. The fact that
    57 percent of mothers from the Stanford University class of 1981
    stayed home with their young children for at least a year gives no
    indication of whether the percentage of Stanford graduates remaining
    at home with their children has increased, decreased, or remained the
    same over time.

    But we know that some things have changed over time. The main
    difference between women in the 1970s and today is that a
    substantially higher percentage are currently receiving degrees in law
    or medicine, or obtaining graduate education in general. Between 1970
    and 1997 the proportion of degrees awarded to women soared by almost
    500 percent in medicine, 800 percent in law, and 1000 percent in
    business. Even if one-third of all the women currently receiving these
    degrees opt out of professional life, the remaining two-thirds amount
    to a significant increase in women's employment in these areas over
    the last three decades.

    At the moment, women opting out of high-powered careers to stay home
    with their children are a minor element in a profound life-style trend
    that has extended over the last several decades--a development deftly
    portrayed, some might say celebrated, in the media. After a six-year
    run, the popular HBO series "Sex and the City" ended in 2004 with what
    was widely reported as a happy ending. Each of the four heroines, in
    their late thirties and early forties, found partners and commitment,
    while also pursuing gratifying careers. The series finale was a paean
    to love and individual fulfillment. But as for family life, these four
    vibrant, successful women approaching the terminus of their
    childbearing years ended up with only two marriages and one child
    between them. As a mirror of society, the media shift from kids
    bouncing off the walls in the "Brady Bunch" to the .25 fertility rate
    in "Sex and the City" several decades later clearly reflects the
    cultural and demographic trends over this period.

    Today, a little over one in five women in their early forties are
    childless. That is close to double the proportion of childless women
    in 1976. Compared to a relatively few Ivy-League law graduates who
    have traded the bar for rocking the cradle, the abdication of
    motherhood poses an alternative and somewhat more compelling answer to
    the question: Who is opting out of what? Women are increasingly having
    fewer children and a growing proportion are choosing not to have any
    children at all. And those who have children are delegating their care
    to others. If there has been an "opt-out revolution," the dramatic
    increase in childlessness--from one in ten to almost one in five
    women--and the rise in out-of-home care for young kids would probably
    qualify more than the shift of a relatively small group of
    professional-class women from high-powered careers to childrearing
    activities. <

                            The choices women make

    Talk of social revolutions conveys a sense of fundamental change in
    people's values--a new awakening that is compelling women to
    substitute one type of life for another. The "opt-out revolution"
    implies that whatever it is women really want, they all pretty much
    want the same thing when it comes to career and family. It may have
    looked that way in earlier times. Although the question of what women
    want has plagued men for ages, it became a serious issue for women
    only in modern times in the advanced industrialized countries. Before
    the contraceptive revolution of the mid 1960s, biology may not have
    been destiny, but it certainly contributed to the childbearing fate of
    women who engaged in sexual activity. Most women needed men for their
    economic survival before the equal-opportunity movement in the 1960s,
    which opened access to most all careers. Moreover, the expansion of
    white-collar jobs and jobs for secondary earners since the 1960s has
    presented women with a viable range of employment alternatives to
    traditional domestic life. Taken together, these advances in
    contraceptive technology and civil rights along with labor market
    changes have transformed women's opportunities to control and shape
    their personal lives. As Catherine Hakim, a senior research fellow at
    the London School of Economics, has pointed out, this historic shift
    allows modern women to exercise work and family choices that were
    heretofore unknown to all but a privileged few.

    And what are these preferences? Taking family size as a powerful
    indicator of life-style choice, we can distinguish at least four
    general categories that form a continuum of work-family preferences
    among women in the United States. At one end of the continuum are
    women with three or more children. Most of these women derive most of
    their sense of personal identity and achievement from the traditional
    childrearing responsibilities and from practicing the domestic arts.
    While all mothers tend to love their children, these women also enjoy
    being around kids on a daily basis. In 1976, about 59 percent of women
    over 40 years of age had three or more children. But as women gained
    control over procreation and employment opportunities opened, fewer of
    them took this traditional route. Today, only 29 percent of the women
    over 40 years of age have three or more children.

    At the other end of the continuum are women who are childless--often
    by choice. Here personal success tends to be measured by achievements
    in business, political, intellectual, and artistic life rather than in
    the traditional realms of motherhood and childrearing. This is a
    highly individualistic, work-centered group engaged in what might be
    called the "postmodern" life style. As already noted, since 1976 the
    proportion of childless women over the age of 40 has almost doubled,
    representing 18 percent of all the women in that age cohort today.

    In the middle of the life-style continuum, about 52 percent of women
    currently over 40 have either one or two children. These women are
    interested in paid work, but not so vigorously committed to a career
    that they would forego motherhood. Although a bare majority, this
    group is often seen as representative of all women--and of the women
    "who want it all." In balancing the demands of employment and family,
    women with one child normally tip the scales in favor of their
    careers, while the group with two children leans more toward domestic
    life. Thus the women clustered around the center of the continuum can
    be divided into two basic categories--"neo-traditional" and
    "modern"--that vary in degrees from the traditional and the postmodern
    life styles.

    The neo-traditional group contains families with two children whose
    working mothers are physically and emotionally invested more in their
    home life than their jobs, which are often part-time. Since 1976 the
    proportion of women over age 40 with two children has increased by 75
    percent and currently amounts to about 35 percent of the women in that
    cohort. The modern family usually involves a working mother with one
    child; these women are more career-oriented and devote greater time
    and energy to their paid employment than neo-traditional women. The
    proportion of women over 40 with one child has climbed by almost 90
    percent since 1976, and currently amounts to 17 percent of the women
    in that cohort.

    As general types, the traditional, neo-traditional, modern, and
    postmodern categories help draw attention to both the diversity of
    work and family choices and to how the size of these groups has
    shifted over the last three decades. Needless to say, in each group
    there are women who do not fit the ideal-type--childless women who do
    not work and women employed full-time with three or more children at
    home. Also, there are women in each group who would have preferred to
    have more or fewer children than they ended up with. And certainly
    some women who would prefer not to work and to have additional
    children are compelled out of economic necessity to participate in the
    labor force and have fewer children. However, for most people in the
    advanced industrial countries what is often considered economic
    "necessity" amounts to a preferred level of material comfort--home
    ownership, automobiles, vacations, cell phones, DVDs, and the like.
    The trade-off between higher levels of material consumption and a more
    traditional domestic life is largely a matter of individual choice.
    Health has also not played much of a role in these changing family
    patterns. There is no strong indication that the physical status of
    the U.S. population has deteriorated over the last three decades in
    any way that would systematically account for the increasing
    proportion of women with only one or two children.

    Many feminists like to portray women as a monolithic group whose
    shared interests are dominated by the common struggle to surmount
    biological determinism, patriarchal socialization, financial
    dependence on men, and workplace discrimination. And they would like
    public policies to reflect this supposed reality. However, in the
    course of exercising preferences about how to balance the demands of
    work and family, the heterogeneity of women's choices has become
    increasingly evident. This substantial variance has great importance
    for social policy. For it compels us to ask which groups of
    women--traditional, neo-traditional, modern, and postmodern--are
    really best served by today's so-called family-friendly policies.

                      Family policy in the United States

    The conventional package of "family-friendly" public policies involves
    benefits designed to reduce the tensions between work and family life,
    such as parental leave, family services, and day care. For the most
    part these policies address the needs of women in the neo-traditional
    and modern categories--those trying to balance work and family
    obligations. The costs of publicly subsidized day care are born by all
    taxpayers, but the programs offer no benefits to childless women who
    prefer the postmodern life style and are of little use to traditional
    stay-at-home mothers. Indeed, with few exceptions, childless women in
    full-time careers and those who remain at home to care for children
    are not the subjects of family-related policy deliberations.

    Among the advanced industrial democracies the United States is
    considered a laggard in dispensing parental leave, day care, and other
    public subsidies to reduce the friction between raising a family and
    holding a job. The right to take 12 weeks of job-protected family
    leave was initiated in 1993. But the scope of coverage is limited to
    companies with 50 employees or more--and the leave is unpaid. Needless
    to say, unpaid leave is not a serious option for many low-income
    families. However, low-income families have benefited from the
    considerable rise in public spending for child care during the 1990s.
    Testifying before Congress in 2002, American Enterprise Institute
    scholar Douglas Besharov estimated that between 1994 and 1999 federal
    and state expenditures on child care programs climbed by almost 60
    percent, from $8.9 billion to $14.1 billion, most of which served
    low-income families. About $2 billion of additional support was
    delivered to mainly middle- and upper-income families through the
    child-care tax credit. Although $16 billion in publicly subsidized
    care is no trivial sum, it amounts to less than $900 for each child
    under five years of age.

    The United States has moved slowly toward expanding conventional
    family-friendly arrangements in part because of ideological
    ambivalence in this area. Public sympathy for welfare programs that
    pay unmarried women to stay home and care for their children
    evaporated as the labor- force participation of married women with
    children younger than six years of age multiplied threefold, from
    under 20 percent in 1960 to over 60 percent in 2000. The increased
    public spending on day care is largely related to making it possible
    for welfare mothers to enter the labor force. Conservatives have long
    argued for strengthening work requirements in welfare programs. At the
    same time, many conservatives also support the idea of "putting less
    emphasis on policies that free up parents to be better workers, and
    more emphasis on policies that free up workers to be better
    parents"--a view expressed in the Report to the Nation from the
    Commission on Children at Risk. Liberals have traditionally resisted
    demands that welfare recipients should work for their benefits. But
    this position softens when feminists on the Left push for universal
    day care and other policies that encourage all mothers to enter the
    paid workplace.

                            European family policy

    In contrast to the United States, Western European countries are well
    known for having a powerful arsenal of day care and other
    family-friendly benefits. For example, over 70 percent of the children
    from age three years to school age in Belgium, Denmark, France,
    Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom are in
    publicly financed child care. Given the general direction of U.S.
    policy, it may be instructive to examine how motherhood and family
    life have fared in light of the changing levels of family-friendly
    benefits available in the industrialized countries of the European
    Union. The question is not simply are they "family friendly," but for
    what kinds of families and female life styles are they friendly?

    Overall, marriage and fertility rates have declined and female
    labor-force participation rates have increased throughout most of the
    European Union over the last few decades. In fact, the fertility rates
    are currently lower than in the United States, and the proportions of
    childless women aged 40 in Britain, Austria, Switzerland, and Sweden
    are about the same as that in the United States. Contrary to what one
    might expect, sociologist Gosta Esping-Andersen found that in 1992
    European countries with high levels of female employment tended to
    have higher fertility rates than those with low levels of female
    employment. Based on the positive correlation from a cross-sectional
    analysis of 19 countries he concludes that in some contexts female
    careers and children can become fairly compatible. Similar moderately
    positive results emerge from a cross-sectional analysis of fertility
    rates and female employment in 12 European countries in 1997.

    These positive findings, however, say more about the limits of
    cross-sectional analysis than the empirical relation between fertility
    and labor-force participation rates. The limitation becomes apparent
    when these rates are analyzed over time. Here a completely different
    picture emerges, as illustrated in Figure 1, which shows a substantial
    inverse relationship between the average fertility and female
    employment rates for these 12 countries between 1987 and 1997.
    Although average rates, of course, could obscure different
    relationship patterns in the individual countries, analyses conducted
    on each country separately are highly consistent with the overall
    pattern based on averages. Following the downward trend in fertility,
    the decline in marriage rates between 1987 and 1998 also shows a
    strong inverse correlation with labor-force participation.

    As female labor-force participation rates rose, public efforts were
    made in many countries to reduce the friction between work and family
    life. One way to estimate the effects of these efforts is to ask: How
    did patterns of public spending on family-friendly services such as
    day care, household services, and other in-kind family benefits vary
    with marriage and fertility rates? Although the pattern of spending on
    family-friendly benefits rises and falls, overall the average rates of
    public expenditure on these benefits as a percent of GDP increased
    from the late 1980s to the late 1990s. This spending had an inverse
    correlation with fertility rates (as shown in Figure 2) and showed a
    similar relation to marriage rates. Analyses conducted separately on
    each country show some variance from the pattern that emerges when
    averaging results, particularly in regard to fertility rates that had
    positive correlations with spending on family benefits in five (four
    of which were statistically significant) of the fifteen countries.

    Family-friendly policies, of course, involve more than the
    Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD)
    categories of expenditure represented by family benefits. For example,
    over 70 percent of the employed women in the Netherlands work in
    part-time jobs that have benefits similar to those of full-time
    employment, and Dutch children spend more days per year in school than
    most elementary school students in the European Union. A thorough
    assessment of measures that weigh into efforts to balance work and
    family life would include parental leave, flexible work schedules,
    number and length of school days, paid vacation time, and family
    allowances. Some of these benefits are reflected in data on total
    public expenditures, analyses of which reveal patterns that parallel
    the findings noted above. That is, rates of total public expenditure
    between 1987 and 1997 are inversely related to both fertility (see
    Figure 3) and marriage rates. Still, even when total public
    expenditures are considered, there are many distinctions in the
    variety of measures that operate in different countries--which is to
    say the findings that fertility and marriage rates generally declined
    as spending on family benefits and total public expenditure have
    increased can only be taken as suggestive. But what do they suggest?

                    Believers, skeptics, and disbelievers

    Overall, these findings lend themselves to at least three broad
    interpretations. Believers in the salutary effects of family-friendly
    policies would argue that although such policies did not appear to
    strengthen the formation of family life (by increasing the presence of
    children and marriage), in the absence of these benefits the declines
    would have been even sharper--that is, these benefits acted as a brake
    to slow things up. As evidence, they might point to the fact that in
    three of the countries--Denmark, Sweden, and Finland--that had
    significant positive correlations between fertility rates and public
    expenditure on family benefits, the rates of expenditure were
    proportionately more than twice as high as that of most of the other
    countries. This suggests that the decline can be diminished if
    significant resources are invested in family services.

    Invoking the mantra "correlation is not causality," skeptics find
    little reason to assume that these policies are either friendly or
    unfriendly to families, and read the results as confirming that
    family-friendly policies make no palpable difference. They point out
    that if indeed these benefits served as a brake on declining rates of
    fertility and marriage, then one would expect to find the lowest
    marriage and fertility rates in countries that lagged behind in the
    family-friendly benefits, of which the United States is a prime
    example--except that the American rates are higher than those of the
    European Union. Skeptics would no doubt refer to the history of
    children's allowances in France which were initiated under the Family
    Code of 1939 with the explicit goal of increasing the birthrate.
    Although the French birthrate increased considerably in the decades
    after World War II, during the same period the United States--with no
    children's allowance--also experienced a dramatic rise in the
    birthrate, while the birthrate in Sweden declined despite its
    allowance system. The skeptic argues that decisions concerning
    marriage and family size address fundamental conditions of human
    existence, which do not yield readily to social policy.

    Finally, disbelievers conclude that so-called family-friendly policies
    are not really family friendly at all. Rather, these theorists argue
    that although the inverse correlations between female labor-force
    participation and fertility and marriage rates, and between
    expenditures on family benefits and fertility and marriage rates, do
    not represent definitive explanations, they are indicative of two firm
    underlying realities.

    The first is an unyielding tension between a life centered on
    family--meeting the continuous demands of marriage, child rearing, and
    household management--and a life centered on paid employment and
    meeting the continuous demands of a full-time career. As any woman who
    has tried it can testify, balancing paid work and family life is
    extraordinarily difficult. Caring for young children is immensely
    labor intensive and relentless.

    A two-earner family with two children under five years of age hits the
    ground running by 6:30 a.m. The kids have to be washed, fed, dressed,
    and out the door in time to get to the day-care providers well before
    the parents are due at their jobs. At 5:00 p.m. the parents leave work
    and rush to pick up the kids, take them home to be fed, undressed,
    bathed, and put to bed. This tight daily routine can be further
    squeezed by jobs that require evening meetings, out-of-town travel,
    overtime, and take-home work. On top of the daily routine, there is
    weekly shopping for the household, buying children's clothes,
    cleaning, laundry, doctor appointments, haircuts, and coping with
    pinkeye, strep throat, and ear infections that strike without warning.
    It does not take much for things to spin out of control--a dead car
    battery, a broken washing machine, or a leaky roof will do it.
    Although many men have increased their involvement in domestic life,
    whether due to genetic indisposition, poor socialization, ineptitude,
    or some combination thereof, their participation in traditional female
    duties has fallen far short of a fair share. The reality is that most
    working mothers continue to assume the brunt of household and
    child-care responsibilities. And with all the working mother's
    efforts, at the end of each week her young children have spent the
    majority of their waking hours with their physical needs being met and
    personalities shaped by strangers.

    The second reality is that the main threads of family-friendly
    policies are tied to and reinforce female labor-force
    participation--and are more aptly labeled "market friendly." These
    policies are largely, though not entirely, associated with publicly
    provided care for children and supports for periods of parental leave.
    To qualify for parental-leave benefits it is necessary to have a job
    before having children. The incentive for early attachment to the
    labor force is bolstered by publicly subsidized day care. Child-care
    services both compensate for the absence of parental child care in
    families with working mothers and generate an economic spur for
    mothers to shift their labor from the home to the market. In Sweden,
    for example, free day-care services are state-subsidized by as much as
    $11,900 per child. They are free at the point of consumption, but paid
    for dearly by direct and indirect taxes--in 1990, Swedish taxes
    absorbed the highest proportion of the gross domestic product of any
    OECD country. Paying in advance for the "free" day-care service tends
    to squeeze mothers into the labor force, since the crushing tax rates
    make it difficult for the average family to get by on the salary of
    one earner. State-sponsored welfare activities accounted for about
    three-quarters of the net job creation in Sweden between 1970 and
    1990, with almost all of these public-service positions being filled
    by women. Thus much of the voluntary labor invested in care for
    children, disabled kin, and elderly relatives was redirected to
    providing social care to strangers for pay.

    In sum, the disbeliever argues that a meaningful connection exists
    between the decline in marriage and fertility and increasing public
    investments in family benefits in recent decades. In the view of such
    critics, the quality of family life suffers when mothers with young
    children go to work; hence, policies that create incentives to shift
    informal labor invested in child care and domestic production to the
    realm of paid employment are not "family-friendly" in any genuine

                             Reframing the debate

    Seen in the context of women's diverse interests in work and family
    life, each of the interpretations outlined above frames a slice of
    reality. That is, the consequences of family-friendly policies vary in
    strength and direction for women with different life-style
    preferences. The skeptic is correct in the sense that these policies
    probably have little effect on women at the two ends of the
    work-family continuum--those who prefer the traditional and postmodern
    life styles. Just as the availability of subsidized child-care
    services is unlikely to redirect women who are career-centered and not
    inclined toward having children, it is doubtful that most women
    disposed toward rearing three or more children would be seriously
    influenced by the prospect of having their children cared for by other
    people on a daily basis.

    Although there is a degree of elasticity within each life-style
    category, the largest potential for movement is among those women
    somewhere in the middle. On one hand, the believer in such policies
    probably has a point in that child care and other family benefits
    facilitate the objectives of women in the modern group. In the absence
    of family benefits, fertility and marriage rates among these women
    might have declined, as some of them would adopt a postmodern life
    style. On the other hand, the disbelievers' view that most
    family-friendly policies undermine the institution they are purported
    to support probably resonates with many women in the neo-traditional
    group for whom work is secondary to child care. In the absence of
    family benefits that create incentives to work and lend impetus to the
    normative devaluation of childrearing and the domestic arts, fertility
    rates might rise, as some of the women disposed toward a
    neo-traditional life style would gravitate into the traditional

    The reality is that family policies can be friendlier to some life
    styles than to others. Recognizing this, we should explore
    alternatives to the conventional perspective on family policies
    designed to harmonize work and family life. The conventional approach
    is implicitly oriented toward helping mothers work while raising
    children. It is informed by male work patterns, which basically
    involve a seamless transition from school to the paid labor force
    along with a drive to rise as high as possible in a given line of
    work. This "male model" of an early start and a continuous work
    history imposes a temporal frame on policies to harmonize work and
    family life, and it stresses the idea of "balancing" the concurrent
    performance of labor-force participation and child-rearing activities.
    Child-care services, and even periods of parental leave, facilitate an
    ongoing and relatively stable work history--which is preferred by
    many, though clearly not all, women.

    But the male model offers a narrow perspective on family and career
    choices. Viewing the issue from a "life-course perspective" reframes
    and extends the choices by including the possibility that a "balance"
    between motherhood and employment might be achieved by sequential as
    well as concurrent patterns of paid and domestic work. Such a
    perspective encompasses not only women who want to combine work and
    family life at the same time, but also those who might envision
    investing all their resources in child care and domestic activities
    for 5 to 10 years and then spending the next 25 to 30 years in paid

    There are good reasons why some women, particularly those in the
    traditional and neo-traditional categories, might prefer the
    trade-offs of the sequential approach to balancing motherhood and
    employment. The contributions of full- time homemakers to their
    families and to society vary according to different stages of the
    family life cycle. The early years of childhood are critical for
    social and cognitive development; some mothers want to invest more
    heavily in shaping this development than in advancing their employment
    prospects. Home care during the early childhood years is
    labor-intensive, which heightens the economic value of the homemaker's
    contribution during that period. Finally, as the span of life has
    lengthened, even after 10 years at home most women would still have
    more than 25 years to invest in paid employment. Of course, choosing
    to invest 5 to 10 years in child care and household management would
    cut off those careers that require early training, many years of
    preparation, or the athletic prowess of youth. And a later start
    lessens the likelihood of rising to the very top of the career ladder.
    Those are the trade-offs of pursuing two callings in life.

    Various measures could be initiated to support the choice of a
    sequential approach to balancing family and work. For example, we have
    seen that the federal government already provides about $16 billion in
    subsidies for a variety of cash and in-kind benefits to working
    parents who place their children in day care. The provision of similar
    supports through tax credits and home-care allowances to full-time
    homemakers with children under five years of age would afford parents
    greater freedom to choose between caring for children at home and
    consuming state subsidized day-care benefits. To guard against
    home-care benefits that would end up disproportionately subsidizing
    wealthy families, these schemes could be progressively indexed.

    In 1998, Norway initiated a policy to pay cash benefits to all
    families with children up to three years old as long as the child was
    not enrolled in a state-subsidized day-care center. Finland employs a
    similar policy, which was fully implemented in 1989. Between 1989 and
    1995 labor-force participation of Finnish women with children under
    three years old declined from 68 to 55 percent.

    Direct child-rearing benefits are not the only way to recognize and
    support those women who choose home care during the early childhood
    years. Several European countries provide varying amounts of pension
    credits toward retirement to parents who stay home to care for young
    children. Family-friendly policies might even award "social" credits
    for each year at home with young children, which could be exchanged
    for benefits that would assist parents in making the transition from
    homemaker to paid employment. Such benefits could include tuition for
    academic and technical training, and preferential points on federal
    civil-service examinations. The social-credit scheme would be somewhat
    akin to certain veterans' benefits, which were granted in recognition
    of people who sacrificed career opportunities while serving the
    nation. In shaping the moral and physical stock of future citizens,
    the homemaker's contribution to national well-being is obviously quite
    different from, but no less important than, that of veterans. By
    recognizing this contribution the family social-credit scheme would
    elevate the sagging status of domestic activities and child-rearing
    functions as well as reinforce the thinning fabric of informal social
    support networks.

    The case for rethinking what we mean by "family-friendly" policies is
    put forth not to advance one pattern of motherhood and employment over
    another, but to give equal consideration to the diverse values that
    influence how women respond to the conflicting demands of work and
    family life. As things now stand, public policies are far from neutral
    on the question of whether parents should look after their children or
    go to work and outsource the job of caring for the kids. As seen in
    the growth of public child-care spending, children have become an
    increasing source of paid employment. There will always be a few women
    leaving well-paid jobs to care for their children. But as an avant
    garde of the opt-out revolution, this group is unlikely to draw many
    recruits in the face of current policies, the full thrust of which
    reinforce the abdication of motherhood.

    Copyright of The Public Interest, Issue #158 (Winter 2005), National
    Affairs, Inc.

    Neil Gilbert is Chernin Professor of Social Welfare at the University
    of California, Berkeley, and author of Transformation of the Welfare
    State: The Silent Surrender of Public Responsibility (Oxford
    University Press, 2002).

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