A non-trivial number of mothers in Japan do not work despite being in poverty, a pattern of behavior that is inconsistent with both the predictions of conventional models of labor supply and the articulations of a “gender revolution.” This is particularly puzzling given that well-documented barriers to employment for low-income mothers in the United States and elsewhere appear to be of limited relevance in Japan. In this paper, we seek to better understand this pattern of behavior by describing the reasons that these mothers give for not working and by examining how the correlates of maternal employment differ for those whose husbands' employment income is above and below half of the median household income. We show that a majority of these mothers report that their desire to focus on childrearing is a main reason for not working outside the home. Importantly, this prioritization of childrearing is unrelated to husband's income level and the family's economic need. We also show that the presence of an infant, attitudinal endorsement of the primacy of the mother role, and clear gender division of labor are particularly strong predictors of non-employment among all mothers, including those married to low-earning men. We discuss these findings in the context of theories of “diverging destinies,” focusing on their potential implications for children's resources and the process of social and economic stratification within and across generations.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Gender Studies
- Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management