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LIS Working Paper Series 414
This article investigates the dual-earner model in families with children in Finland and Sweden from the end of the 1980s to the beginning of the 2000s. During this period the two countries introduced the same kind as well as different kinds of policies in relation to the dual-earner model. Simultaneously both countries experienced a very deep economic crisis in the beginning of the 1990s, which also could be expected to influence the dual-earner model. The study focuses on both two-parent families and single mothers. Because family leaves and benefits related to children and childcare are often available according to the age of the youngest child, we analyse the outcomes by children's age groups. We focus on mothers labour market position and earnings, the share of dual-earner couples and the contribution of mothers' earnings on family income. We also assess the outcomes in terms of poverty rates. Instead of moving traditionally step by step from families market income to final disposable income, we choose a stepwise way to analyse the impact on poverty rates of income from different sources, from men's earnings income to combined spouses' income, and income from the welfare state in relation to children and childcare etc. until disposable income. Income analyses are based on the four latest waves of LIS data. In both countries the employment rate has gone down and the unemployment rate up among mothers as well as fathers. The shares of dual-earner families and the shares of families below the poverty line have increased. The situation of single mothers in general has degenerated substantially. The development can be seen as an indication of a weakening of the dual-earner model in both countries. On the other hand, the earnings of mothers in dual-earner families compared to fathers' average earnings are higher today than in the 1980s, which can be interpreted as a strengthening of the dual-earner model and of women's position in these families. The results indicate that the strength of the dual-earner model in families with school age children has not weakened and the share and the earnings pattern of dual-earner families were more similar in the two countries around 2000 than in the end of the 1980s. In families with pre-school children Finnish and Swedish mothers' earnings income contribute about the same proportion to total gross family income. But there is a difference in the direction of the development. Finnish families have moved in the direction of female homemaker's male earner model, when the child is below three years of age, i.e. the dual-earner model has been weakened. While in Sweden, parents' behaviour moves, although slowly, in the same direction as the intention of the policies, in terms of mothers contributing more to family income, i.e. the dual-earner model has been strengthened. Whether this development will continue, when and if the economy and the labour market grow, can only be disclosed by long-term empirical studies.
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