Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Janet Gornick

Committee Members

Leslie McCall

John Bowman

Subject Categories

Comparative Politics | Other Political Science | Public Policy | Social Policy


gendered tradeoffs, unintended consequences, policy measurement, cross-national, work-family reconciliation policy, employment, gender inequality, class inequality, leave policy, ECEC policy


In this dissertation, I am in conversation with the small but influential gendered tradeoffs literature. First, multidimensional, disaggregated, and precise policy measures were developed for two of the most widely studied work-family reconciliation policies—leave and ECEC. I constructed a comprehensive set of leave and ECEC policy measures for 24 high-income countries using secondary and country-specific sources. The goal was to determine which countries provide leave and ECEC policies that are “well-developed” across multiple policy dimensions. The new measures were then used in combination with the LIS microdata to reevaluate the gendered tradeoffs hypothesis—whether well-developed leave and ECEC support women’s employment but adversely affect women’s work intensity, earnings, and occupational attainment, by class. To extend the literature, the relationship between the two policies and class inequality in employment between low- and highly educated women was also explored.

Overall, the results show the importance of moving toward multidimensional, disaggregated, and precise leave and ECEC policy measures for use in gendered tradeoffs research. A newly constructed policy typology categorizes the development of leave and ECEC across multiple dimensions better than standard welfare state categorizations. The varied relationships among the measures of individual policy dimensions raise the question of what types of relationships, if any, we should see among policy measures. The ongoing debate as to whether “well-developed” leave and ECEC worsen gender employment inequalities may be a result of the many ways these policies have been measured and utilized across different studies.

Utilizing the new typology and policy measures to reevaluate the gendered tradeoffs hypothesis adapting the two main methods in the literature (regimes and multilevel models), the results suggest any empirical evidence to support the hypothesis is explained only by certain design features of leave policy. Unintended, class gaps between low- and highly educated women may also be exacerbated by certain design features of leave policy. Therefore, the results provide some support for “class tradeoffs” among women and well as gendered tradeoffs.

However, evidence to support gendered tradeoffs and, new to the literature, class tradeoffs is dependent on the method used to test relationships between the policy dimensions and outcomes, the class definition used, and included country cases. Building on accumulated evidence in the literature, there is no evidence to suggest that “good” ECEC adversely affects women’s employment and attainment. If we want to continue to evaluate the links between these two prominent work-family reconciliation policies and women’s employment, then the issue of unintended consequences of these policies cannot be separated from the issue of intended consequences of these policies.