Why Do Women Opt out? The Ideological & Economic Determinants of Women’s Employment Status

Katrina M. Leupp, University of Washington

Popular culture indicates that the cultural model of intensive mothering, which prizes full-time, maternal care for children, remains salient despite women’s high employment rates (Douglas & Michaels 2004). This paper examines the conceptual relevance of perspectives implied by 1) cultural ideologies about mothering, and 2) financial resources, for understanding mothers’ return to employment after a first birth. Results indicate that holding an intensive mothering ideology, and family income other than women’s own earnings, decrease the risk of return to employment. Yet at the same time, mothers’ incomes have significant, positive effects on employment returns. In sum, the competing effects of own income and other family income suggest a more complicated relationship between class privilege, employment, and mothering practices than is commonly described.

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Presented in Poster Session 3