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EMBARGOED: August 14, 2004
During the 2004 ASA Annual Meeting (beginning at 1:30pm on Aug. 13 through 3pm on Aug. 17), reach ASA's Press Office (415-923-7542, 415-923-7544 (fax)) at the Hilton San Francisco Hotel.
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August 14, 2004

Employed Women Are Healthier Than Unemployed Women Regardless of the Number of Hours They Work

San Francisco, CA — Research to be presented at the American Sociological Association’s (ASA) 99th Annual Meeting has found that neither longer work hours nor combining one’s own longer work hours with those of a spouse, diminishes the health benefits women enjoy from their employment.

Sociologist Jason Schnittker of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Sociology said, “Women who are employed, regardless of the number of hours they work or how they combine work with family obligations, report better health than do those who are unemployed.” He found that, regarding health, relatively few women experience the time bind. The most important most important factor in increasing women’s health is an increase in women’s employment rates.

Schnittker used the General Social Survey (GSS) to explore trends in women’s self-rated health and employment between 1974 and 2000, focusing on the relationship between work hours, family responsibilities, and health. He found a steady decline in the percentage of women who are not working.

His research results indicate that more women are working and that more women are working longer hours. Furthermore, more women are combining full-time work with raising a young child. Yet, women continue to have better health than they did in earlier periods and this upward trend reflects a continued increase in the number of women who are employed. Although some women may “opt-out” of their careers to focus on raising children, there are more important trends for health. His research found that the benefits of women’s employment decrease when caring for a child under six, but the reduction is temporary and almost disappears as the child matures. His research suggests that women in the late 1990s enjoyed somewhat better health than did men, a clear reversal of patterns found in the 1970s and one driven by increases in women’s employment rates.

This persistence of the gender gap in wages, however, continues to affect gender differences in health. Schnittker hypothesizes that “Women might have worse health than they might otherwise, but not because they are overworked, but rather because they are underpaid…. What the present results suggest is that the health benefits of women’s employment may be derived in no small part from the income it provides. This is not something scholars have focused on in the past, but it is important and should not be neglected. ”

In his research, Schnittker controlled for age, race, marital status, divorce history, occupation, and family income. He found that when controlling for income, men experience a slight decline in health from a spouse working 31 to 40 hours, relative to a spouse working 30 hours or less or not at all. Illustrating another difference between men and women, he found that having a child under the age of six at home reduces the benefits of employment for women but not for men.

Journalists are invited to attend Annual Meeting events. The ASA Annual Meeting will take place August 13-17 in San Francisco, CA. Press facilities (415-923-7542) will be located in Union Square Rooms 1 & 2 on the fourth floor of Building 3 of the Hilton San Francisco. For more information, contact Johanna Ebner or Lee Herring (202-297-3149, cell) (pubinfo@asanet.org) or after the ASA Annual Meeting at the ASA Public Information Office, (202-383-9005 ext. 332). During the meeting, Schnittker can be reached at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, Telephone Number: 650-589-0600.

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About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.