American Sociological Association

Gender Norms, Work-Family Policies, and Labor Force Participation among Immigrant and Native-born Women in Western Europe

Though women’s labor force participation has increased over recent decades, it remains lower than men’s in nearly every advanced democracy. Some groups of migrant and ethnic minority women have especially low rates of labor force participation, which is often attributed to cultures of origin that are less normatively supportive of women’s paid work outside the home. I argue in this paper that the gender norms women have been exposed to in their families and countries of origin interact with work-family policies to shape patterns of labor force participation. Cultural and familial norms about women’s employment outside the home are influential for women’s labor force participation in contexts of weak work-family policies. However, they cease to matter in determining women’s labor force participation in contexts of strong work-family policies.


Christel Kesler