Understanding Society Scientific Conference 2019 - , University of Essex

Career trajectories and occupational downgrading after childbirth in the UK

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Day:Thu 4 Jul
  • Alina Pelikh, University of Essex

This paper examines the employment trajectories of men and women up to five years following the birth of a child, and the ways that individual, family and pre-birth employment characteristics influence career outcomes. Evidence shows that across countries women with children suffer large pay penalties and occupational downgrading is one potential explanation for this since the competing demands of work and families are greater in some jobs than others.

Using 2010-2017 Understanding Society data, we examine what evidence there is that women – by opting out of employment, moving to part-time work or moving to lower status occupations- ‘downgrade’ their careers following childbirth.

First, we use sequence analysis to produce a rich descriptive picture of the typical pathways by which occupational (up)downgrading occurs. Second, we examine how a broader range of job characteristics (working hours, sector, etc.) influence post birth outcomes.

The results show that most change takes place 3 to 5 years after birth rather than immediately. Most women who return to work go back to the same occupation after childbirth but the longer the period since birth the more women tend to withdraw from full-time employment and switch to different occupations. Staying with the same employer is associated with lower risk of downward mobility but also with lower chances of occupational upgrading. Similarly, working in the public sector or in health or education industries is linked with the ability to maintain the same occupational grade but lower chances of up(down) grading.