Family Formation and Labour Force Participation

Maternal Employment and Educational Differentials in Europe

Jonas Wood  By the same author

      Karel Neels  By the same author

      David De Wachter  By the same author

      Tine Kil  By the same author


Despite the rise in maternal employment in Europe between 1970 and the 2000s, women’s labour market positions continue to depend much more strongly on family formation than those of men. The available literature on educational gradients in maternal employment is largely based on cross-sectional comparisons. This study is among the first to decompose educational differences in maternal employment into differences prior to motherhood and differential effects of childbearing on employment. Drawing on longitudinal microdata (Generations and Gender Survey) for France, the Netherlands, and Hungary, participation in the labour force is studied using mixed effects logit models. In addition we distinguish part-time and full-time work. In line with the available literature, clear positive educational gradients in maternal employment are found, largely reflecting positive educational differentials already existing before family formation. This finding is related to the fact that highly educated women typically aim to establish a career before starting a family, but also have better labour market opportunities in general. Temporary drops in labour force participation are larger after a first birth among highly educated women. Part-time working of mothers is less strongly determined by employment before the first birth, and its frequency increases with educational level.