Divided by Ambition: the Gender Politics of Labor Market Regulation
Working paper, September 2019
Women shoulder a heavier burden of family work than men, preventing them from matching male success in the labor market. Limiting working hours is therefore a plausible way to level the playing field. But why then are heavily regulated European labor markets associated with a smaller share of women in top management compared to liberal market economies such as the US? We explain this puzzle by showing regulation hinders ambitious women from signaling their willingness to relinquish family responsibilities by working extraordinarily long hours. The conjecture is strongly supported in labor force survey data, even as hours restrictions produce more gender-equal employment lower on the occupational ladder. The political implication that women seeking high-powered careers are more likely to vote for center-right parties and against hours regulation emerges clearly in survey data. Divided by ambition, women do not share common purpose on government measures to support women’s work across the board.
(PDF coming soon)