Accounting for differences in women’s labour force transitions by ethnic origin in the UK

Publication type

Conference Paper


Understanding Society Scientific Conference 2015, 21-23 July 2015, University of Essex, Colchester, UK


Publication date

July 22, 2015


Despite increasing female labour force participation (LFP) across
Western countries, there remain large differences in LFP for women of
different ethnic origins. While existing research has demonstrated that
part of these differences can be attributed to compositional differences
(age, qualifications, family context etc.) and to differences in
gender-role attitudes and religiosity, residual ‘ethnic effects’
typically remain. Moreover, dependence on cross-sectional data impedes
understanding of when and how these differences emerge. We aim to
provide a more comprehensive analytical account of differences in LFP by
using longitudinal analysis of labour market transitions. Exploiting
the longitudinal nature of Understanding Society we make an original
contribution to the literature by investigating ethnic differences in
women’s probabilities of labour market entry and exit; and we explore
how far these can be accounted for by a) human capital and demographic
characteristics, b) the impact of relevant events (partnership and
children), and c) differences in gender-role attitudes and religiosity.
We find that, adjusting for all these factors, Indian and Caribbean
women do not differ from White majority women in their labour force
entry and exit probabilities but that Pakistani and Bangladeshi women
are still less likely to enter and more likely to exit the labour
market, while Black African women have higher entry rates. We also find
that Pakistani and Bangladeshi women’s labour market entries and exits
are less sensitive to partnership and child-bearing events than other
women’s. We reflect on the implications of our findings for both policy
and future research.





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