Fertility and Women's Employment in Industrialized Nations

  • Brewster K
  • Rindfuss R
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Thirty years ago, Bumpass & Westoff (1970:95) asked, “Do women limit their fertility in order to have time to pursue their nonfamily-oriented interests, or do women work if their fertility permits them to do so?” In the ensuing decades, sociologists, demographers, and economists have learned much about the relationship between fertility and women’s employment, and yet the answer to this fundamental question remains elusive. Even so, women’s labor force behavior lies at the heart of most explanations of fertility and fertility change, and many nations, both industrialized and developing, have formulated policies based on the inverse association between these two central aspects of women’s lives. The association between fertility and women’s labor force activity reflects the incompatibility between caring for children and participating in economically productive work that typifies industrialized societies (Weller 1977). Prior to industrialization, work and child rearing tasks could be performed more or less simultaneously. In historical and contemporary preindustrial societies, nonmechanized agricultural tasks and piecework could be combined with child supervision with relatively little danger to the child or marked loss of economic productivity (Degler 1980, Roos 1985, Stycos &Weller 1967). As industrialization proceeded, however, childcare and economically productive work became increasingly incompatible. Today, work sites are usually some distance from home, and work schedules, set by employers, lack the flexibility required by children. The presence

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  • Karin L. Brewster

  • Ronald R. Rindfuss

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