Women’s Lifestyle Preferences in the 21st Century: Implications for Family Policy



Recent social and economic changes focused attention first on promoting women’s employment, and now on reversing declining fertility. Preference theory helps us to understand women’s choices between paid jobs and family work, and provides an empirical basis for social and family policy. It predicts continuing sex differences in lifestyle and life goals, and increasing diversity in life patterns for men and women. In contrast, feminism insists that all sex differences can and should be eliminated, so that diversity will vanish. Social scientists are now giving more attention, and weight, to (unpaid) reproductive work and household work, bringing them into the policy limelight. Policy-makers are also confirming the economic and social importance of population growth, and hence the necessity for active population policies. Judging by results, the two policies that appear to have the greatest potential for encouraging women to achieve their ideal family size are raising family allowances to reduce the cost of children, and the homecare allowance which pays one parent a salary for full-time childcare. Both have proved successful and effective in Europe. Overall, social policy must recognise female diversity, and support it with diversified policies that support all groups of women. To date, careerist women have been given greater support than family-centred women who tend to have the largest families.


Parental Leave Fertility Decline Female Employment Population Policy Family Policy 
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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sociology DepartmentLondon School of EconomicsLondonUK

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