The working mother-in-law effect on the labour force participation of first and second-generation immigrant women in the UK

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 1, 2020


There are clear differences in labour force participation rates of women of immigrant origins, both first and second generation, across a range of European countries. Many of these differences, particularly for women with low participation rates, are not fully explained in existing studies. I argue that to better understand differences in labour force participation, and the role of ‘culture’ in shaping them, we need to take account of the context provided by previous generations of women. While mothers may transmit expectations regarding participation directly to their daughters through intergenerational transmission and childhood socialisation, mothers-in-law may also be important in indirectly influencing their daughters-in-law through their sons’ behaviours and attitudes. Using the UK large-scale household panel study Understanding Society, the contribution of this paper is to investigate the ‘mother-in-law effect’ in the UK. I shed light on the extent to which partnered women’s participation is affected by the work status of their partner’s mother. I find a positive association between a working mother-in-law and female labour force participation, which remains sizeable after accounting for individual-level characteristics. I also show that Pakistani and Bangladeshi women’s participation is more sensitive to the work status of their mothers-in-law than that of other groups.

Published in

Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 46 , p.893 -912






Special Issue: Ethnic Diversity in the UK: new opportunities and changing constraints



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