The effect of mothers’ employment on youth gender role attitudes: evidence from Egypt

The effect of mothers’ employment on youth gender role attitudes: evidence from Egypt

Cross-nationally, having a working mother during childhood is associated with more egalitarian attitudes among both adult men and women. However, no previous studies have explored this relationship in the Middle East and North Africa, where women’s employment rates have remained persistently low. In this paper, the authors examine the impact of having a working mother during childhood on Egyptian young people’s attitudes towards women’s roles in the public sphere, gender roles in the household, and ideals around number of children and women’s age at marriage that are related to gender roles. In order to address the potential endogeneity of mother’s work and attitudes formation, the authors use an instrumental variable approach with panel data from the Survey of Young People in Egypt 2009 and 2014 waves.

Mothers' employment is instrumented using the governorate-level female labour force participation rate and percentage of women working in the public sector in 2009. The paper finds that having a working mother during childhood led to significantly more egalitarian attitudes towards women’s roles in the public sphere among both young men and women. However, there was no effect on young people’s attitudes towards gender roles in the household. Having a working mother led to lower ideal number of children among sons, but did not have any effect on views of the ideal age of marriage for women among children of either gender.

In the Egyptian context, having a working mother during childhood thus appears to led to more egalitarian attitudes around women’s roles outside the household but not necessarily their roles inside the household. This suggests that attitudes around gender roles in the household may be more strongly socially conditioned and thus less affected by individual experience, and is also consistent with the finding from labour market research that women continue to bear the brunt of housework and childcare in Egypt even when they are employed. Thus, while having an employed mother does have some liberalizing effect on individual attitudes, broader change in attitudes around gender roles both inside and outside the home may be needed in order to foster increased female labour force participation.

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