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University of Calgary, Department of Sociology, Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 2021

DOI: 10.3138/jcfs-2021-0065

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The Changing Patterns and Determinants of Stay-at-Home Motherhood in Urban China, 1982 to 2015

Journal article published in 2021 by Zheng Mu, Felicia F. Tian
Distributing this paper is prohibited by the publisher
Distributing this paper is prohibited by the publisher

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Abstract

This paper documents trends in and examines determinants of stay-at-home motherhood in urban China from 1982 to 2015. China once had the world’s leading female labor force participation rate. Since the economic reforms starting from the early 1980s, however, some mothers have been withdrawing from the labor force due to diminished state support, a rise in intensive parenting, and heightened work-family conflicts. Based on data from the 1982, 1990, and 2000 Chinese censuses, the 2005 mini-census, and the 2006–2015 Chinese General Social Survey, we find mothers’ non-employment increased for every educational group and grew at a much faster rate among mothers than it did among fathers, particularly those with small children. Moreover, the negative relationships between mothers’ education and non-employment, and between mothers’ family income and non-employment weakened overtime. This possibly due to women with more established resources can better “afford” the single-earner arrangement and also more emphasize the importance of intensive parenting, than their less resourced counterparts. These findings signal the resurgence of a gendered division of labor in urban China.