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Authors: Ettman, Catherine
Advisors: Keohane, Nannerl
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2013
Abstract: This thesis seeks to fill in a gap in the current literature by providing data on what a nationally representative group of women across America rates as the most important polices to facilitate a balance between work and family responsibilities. To answer my research question, “What do women want?” I conducted informal interviews, created an original questionnaire, and conducted a national survey. I documented 698 women’s preferences for child care options, government benefits, and employer benefits. Unlike other surveys, my questionnaire combined desired child care outcomes with the means by which women would like to achieve them (either from the assistance of certain government benefits or employer benefits). My initial hypothesis was that paid maternity leave would be the most important benefit to women; however, after my informal interviews I reformulated my hypothesis to reflect the importance of child care assistance. I hypothesized that child care options that allowed parents to be outside the home (such as having an at-home sitter or day care at work) would be ranked as the most important options. However, these hypotheses were not confirmed by the data. The most striking result of the survey data was that the plurality of women rank having a parent stay at home with a child as the most important child care option when setting costs aside and imagining “the perfect world.” Having a family member stay home with a child was also an important child care option. Women ranked yearly child tax credits as the most important government benefits to have available. Paid maternity leave was less important to mothers and more important to women who were planning on having children in the future. Unpaid maternity and paternity leave were the least popular options. The most important employer policy was having flexible hours. In addition, I found that there were statistically significant differences between the preferences of mothers, non-mothers, and prospective mothers. In conclusion, my results show that women prefer having a parent stay at home with a child for at least some part of the child’s life. Women’s preferences for child tax credits and flexible hours maximize the flexibility of two important resources - money and time - needed to raise children. Maternity leave, while helpful at the beginning of a child’s life, is not enough. It does not address the long-term needs of children and their working parents. Women’s preferences change depending on family status: thus, policymakers should be aware that needs change over time. Women will want different policies during different times of their lives and their children’s lives. Employer and government policies should assist women in achieving this greater flexibility that will allow them to fulfill parenting needs and desires while being actively engaged in the workforce, if they so choose. Policy conclusions include suggesting that legislators expand tax credits and support paid leave and suggesting that employers provide more flexible employment environments and be supportive of employees who prioritize family. Opportunities for future research abound. Women - and the nation - are best served when policy-makers work to assist caregivers in balancing their many responsibilities.
Extent: 135 pages
Access Restrictions: Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2017

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