Economic necessity or self-actualization? Attitudes toward women's labour-force participation in east and west Germany

Michael Braun, Jacqueline Scott, Duane F. Alwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations

Abstract

The contribution of women's labour-force participation to attitudes about the family is the focus of recent comparative research, but the relationships between gender, work, and attitudes have not yet been compared across national contexts that differ dramatically in economic conditions. Using data from the German General Social Survey (ALLBUS) of East and West Germany and the International Social Survey Programme, this paper examines the relationship between the objective situation of women and subjective orientations to work and family life comparatively. In contrast to the prevailing Western patterns Unking family and work the former state-socialist systems were distinctive in the dual conditions of extremely high levels of female labour-force involvement and an encompassing system-level organization of family-support structures. The pattern of similarities and differences in gender-role attitudes between East and West Germans reveals that the former are no less traditionalist than the latter, and that the higher level of acceptance of female labour-force participation by East Germans is a result of the present condition of economic hardship and penury. The German case is placed in a broader perspective using data from other Western countries and Hungary. It is concluded that the state-decreed professional emancipation of women did not succeed in changing traditional gender-role attitudes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-47
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Sociological Review
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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