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Gender and Public Policy Debates on Employer-Provided Benefits: Toward an Explanation of Shortcomings in U.S. Work-Family Policy

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Why has the U.S. developed policies that are largely inadequate in alleviating the difficulties many people have balancing work and family? I argue it is essentially because traditional assumptions about men's and women's separate roles in the areas of work and family persist in public policy in spite of women's, particularly mothers', dramatically increased labor force participation. Over the last half century, women's acceptance as breadwinners, a status entailing recognition of the need to provide for a family, has been slow and incomplete. This incomplete acceptance, I theorize, then carried over into more recent public policy debates on the work-family nexus. This carryover, if it emerges, would then help to account for the otherwise puzzling persistence of traditional assumptions about gender roles in current work-family policy.
In this paper, I build on previous research I conducted showing that relative to men, women have had less, but growing access to private-sector employer-provided benefits over the previous fifty years. To see if the slow and incomplete acceptance of a breadwinning role for women suggested by this association emerges, I examine women's and men's relative treatment in policy debates concerning the regulation of employer-provided benefits. I identify and track gendered and non-gendered statements in U.S. Congressional hearing testimony discussing workers and family-oriented employer-provided benefits. Overall the results here indicate increased acceptance of equal breadwinning roles for women and men, but with a still prominent place in the debate for traditional gender-role conceptions. The final linkage, beyond the scope of this paper, similarly involves comparing women's and men's treatment in congressional debates concerning explicitly work-family benefits. The idea is that consistent findings, across both sets of debates, of a relatively prominent place for traditional gender-role conceptions would lend support to the theory set forth here.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

famili (190), work (147), women (136), polici (133), benefit (96), gender (77), employ (71), role (54), men (53), provid (47), state (45), new (41), labor (38), 1997 (37), worker (36), 1990 (35), employe (34), insur (34), polit (33), privat (32), leav (32),

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Keywords: work and family, work-family, work-family policy, social policy, women and work, gender, women and politics
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Berggren, Heidi. "Gender and Public Policy Debates on Employer-Provided Benefits: Toward an Explanation of Shortcomings in U.S. Work-Family Policy" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston Marriott Copley Place, Sheraton Boston & Hynes Convention Center, Boston, Massachusetts, Aug 28, 2002 <Not Available>. 2009-05-27 <http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p65899_index.html>

APA Citation:

Berggren, H. M. , 2002-08-28 "Gender and Public Policy Debates on Employer-Provided Benefits: Toward an Explanation of Shortcomings in U.S. Work-Family Policy" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston Marriott Copley Place, Sheraton Boston & Hynes Convention Center, Boston, Massachusetts Online <.PDF>. 2009-05-27 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p65899_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Why has the U.S. developed policies that are largely inadequate in alleviating the difficulties many people have balancing work and family? I argue it is essentially because traditional assumptions about men's and women's separate roles in the areas of work and family persist in public policy in spite of women's, particularly mothers', dramatically increased labor force participation. Over the last half century, women's acceptance as breadwinners, a status entailing recognition of the need to provide for a family, has been slow and incomplete. This incomplete acceptance, I theorize, then carried over into more recent public policy debates on the work-family nexus. This carryover, if it emerges, would then help to account for the otherwise puzzling persistence of traditional assumptions about gender roles in current work-family policy.
In this paper, I build on previous research I conducted showing that relative to men, women have had less, but growing access to private-sector employer-provided benefits over the previous fifty years. To see if the slow and incomplete acceptance of a breadwinning role for women suggested by this association emerges, I examine women's and men's relative treatment in policy debates concerning the regulation of employer-provided benefits. I identify and track gendered and non-gendered statements in U.S. Congressional hearing testimony discussing workers and family-oriented employer-provided benefits. Overall the results here indicate increased acceptance of equal breadwinning roles for women and men, but with a still prominent place in the debate for traditional gender-role conceptions. The final linkage, beyond the scope of this paper, similarly involves comparing women's and men's treatment in congressional debates concerning explicitly work-family benefits. The idea is that consistent findings, across both sets of debates, of a relatively prominent place for traditional gender-role conceptions would lend support to the theory set forth here.

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Document Type: .pdf
Page count: 31
Word count: 10571
Text sample:
Gender and Public Policy Debates on Employer­Provided Benefits: Toward an Explanation of Shortcomings in U.S. Work­Family Policy Heidi M. Berggren University of Colorado Department of Political Science Campus Box 333 Boulder Colorado 80302 berggren@sobek.colorado.edu Why has the U.S. developed policies that are largely inadequate in alleviating the difficulties many people have balancing work and family? I argue it is essentially because traditional assumptions about men's and women's separate roles in the areas of work and family persist in public
United States. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Weir Margaret Ann S. Orloff and Theda Skocpol eds. 1988. The Politics of Social Policy in the United States. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Williams W. 1984. "Pregnancy: Special Treatment vs. Equal Treatment." Responses: New York University Review of Law and Social Change 13: 407­410. Wisensale S. K. (1997). The White House and Congress on child care and family leave policy: From Carter to Clinton. Policy Studies Journal 25(1). Wisensale S. K. (2001). Family


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