Social Policy Contexts, Family Well-being, and Gender Equality from a Comparative Perspective
Kang, Ji Young
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My dissertation focuses on the question of how family policies and market institutions matter to individual life chances and outcomes, in particular poverty and gender equality. Among a set of multiple and heterogeneous policies (Thévenon, 2011) that affect families and child well-being, I highlight policies promoting female employment, gender equality, and work and life reconciliation (Gornick & Meyers, 2008; Lewis, 2006). From institutional and comparative perspectives, three different but related papers address the questions of (1) whether and to what extent United States paid maternity leave reduces use of public assistance programs for low-income mothers; (2) how family policies and market economies influence the gender employment gap from the comparative welfare state perspective; and (3) how market structures mediate the effect of childcare and leave programs on the gender wage gap across Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. The findings reported in Paper 1 show a causal inference of policy effect in which state paid maternity leave reduces TANF use for low-income mothers, suggesting that paid maternity leave provides an economic means of support during time off around child birth. This study further finds that the reduction in TANF use varies across states due to differences in paid maternity leave program rules such as those governing the relative generosity or restrictiveness of eligibility criteria. The findings contribute to the identification of the differential impacts of paid maternity leave program rules on TANF participation around childbirth. The findings in Paper 2 show that work and publically supported childcare and leave entitlements are associated with smaller gaps in employment participation between male and female. In addition, the types of market institutions matter. The coordinated market economies with higher specific skill profiles are associated with smaller gender gaps in employment participation. The finding of the importance of market institutions to understand female employment has a significant implication because little is known about the role of market economies in shaping female employment, whereas the role of family policy on female employment is well established. The findings in Paper 3 show that the extent to which family policy affects the gender wage gap hinges on different market and welfare regimes, i.e., how each country organize its market coordination and welfare institutions. This study pushes the current literature forward from a question of how family policy matters to a question of “what kinds of” family policy matters in “which” market economies. My analysis suggests that it may be useful to introduce the varieties-of-capitalism theory to help understand the puzzle of why family policy produces a higher gender-wage gap in certain systems of advanced capitalism.