Volume 40 - Article 7 | Pages 155–184

Does moving for family nest-building inhibit mothers' labour force (re-)entry?

By Stefanie Kley, Sonja Drobnič

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Date received:03 May 2018
Date published:24 Jan 2019
Word count:6006
Keywords:employment, event history models, fertility, German Socio-Economic Panel (GSOEP), longitudinal analysis, migration
Weblink:You will find all publications in this Special Collection on “Spatial Mobility, Family Dynamics, and Gender Relations” here.


Background: Couples tend to move house around first childbirth and often into suburban or rural neighbourhoods, conforming to the normative belief that children should grow up in a ‘proper family home.’ Such moves are likely to increase housing costs and both partners might need to contribute to the household income. But the move might also necessitate long commutes, inhibiting mothers’ labour force participation. If the family sphere is more salient for (prospective) mothers, they might accept a remote location for its family-friendly environment but also because they are not planning a rapid return to work.

Objective: This article analyses the influence of moving around first childbirth on the timing of mothers’ transitions into employment after childbirth.

Methods: Event history methods are used on longitudinal data from the German Socio-Economic Panel 1999–2014 (N = 1334 first-time mothers).

Results: Limited evidence was found for the hypothesis that moving around first childbirth accelerates mothers’ labour market (re-)entry: moving for homeownership increased the entry rate into full-time employment for mothers with low earnings potential. Strong evidence was found for the hypothesis that moving around first childbirth impedes mothers’ employment, particularly hampering entering part-time jobs, the domain of working mothers in Germany and other countries.

Conclusions: Moving for family nest-building seems to place mothers in unfavourable structural positions for employment.

Contribution: This article shows that social inequalities among women and within households as well as the persistence of gendered life courses can be reinforced through processes of family migration.

Author's Affiliation

Stefanie Kley - Universität Hamburg, Germany [Email]
Sonja Drobnič - Universität Bremen, Germany [Email]

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» Gender-specific effects of commuting and relocation on a couple's social life
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