How States Push Mothers Out of Employment

Leah Ruppanner
Book Cover

PB: $24.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1866-1
Publication: Sep 20

HC: $93.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1865-4
Publication: Sep 20

Ebook: $24.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1867-8
Publication: Sep 20

186 pages
6 x 9
14 tables, 4 figs., 36 maps

Challenging preconceived notions of the states that support working mothers

Read Chapter 3 (pdf).


In the absence of federal legislation, each state in the United States has its own policies regarding family leave, job protection for women, and childcare. No wonder working mothers encounter such a significant disparity when it comes to childcare resources in America! Whereas conservative states like Nebraska offer affordable, readily available, and high quality childcare, progressive states that advocate for women’s economic and political power, like California, have expensive childcare, shorter school days, and mothers who are more likely to work part-time or drop out of the labor market altogether to be available for their children.

In Motherlands, Leah Ruppanner cogently argues that states should look to each other to fill their policy voids. She provides suggestions and solutions for policy makers interested in supporting working families. Whether a woman lives in a state with stronger childcare or gender empowerment regimes, at stake is mothers’ financial dependence on their partners.

Ruppanner advocates for reducing the institutional barriers mothers face when re-entering the workforce. As a result, women would have greater autonomy in making employment decisions following childbirth.


"Motherlands is an important book that draws attention to variability in lived experiences—of mothers and women—across the USA.... (Ruppanner) raises...important questions, providing some valuable answers.... Motherlands powerfully demonstrates that the USA has a long way to go to support women as mothers, as workers, and both."
—Social Forces

"Ruppanner thoroughly examines how various U.S. states promote or dissuade postpartum married women’s return to work.... She grounds the discussion in a thorough literature review on welfare states and how U.S. states compare with the models. Ruppanner also examines the significance of other variables such as religiosity and race, performing useful statistical analyses. Helpfully, the book is filled with black-and-white maps of U.S. states, as well as tables and models of the discussion points. The author ends with measures states could enact to better support working families, more flexible and affordable childcare being chief among them. This book will be especially useful for those researching public policy or women’s and gender studies. Summing Up: Recommended."

“Ruppanner offers a major breakthrough in our understanding of the institutional roots of gender and family inequality. Beginning with the key insight that the United States is not a singular welfare state but rather has a patchwork of diverse state-based policies, this ingenious study offers a profusion of eye-opening discoveries about the ways policy regimes put women’s empowerment at odds with the caretaking of children. Motherlands exposes the urgent need for a holistic set of policies that ensure both economically-based gender justice and generous caregiving supports for families.
Kathleen Gerson, Professor of Sociology and Collegiate Professor of Arts and Science at New York University, and author of The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family

“In this meticulously researched book, Leah Ruppanner compellingly makes the case that we don’t need to look to other countries such as Sweden to design policies that promote women’s economic self-sufficiency and gender equality. Taking advantage of the natural experiment that is the United States, Ruppanner shows us that the inspiration and answers lie in our own backyard. Exploiting and exploring the considerable diversity across states with regard to economic and demographic context, prevailing attitudes, and public policy around women, work, and family, she identifies the conditions that do—and don’t—foster women’s economic independence and gender justice, forces that often occur in surprising combinations and in surprising places. Lively and provocative, Motherlands challenges readers and policy makers to take a fresh look at what is happening close to home to come up with a roadmap to policy solutions that can be implemented at the national level.
Pamela Stone, Professor of Sociology at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY, and coauthor of Opting Back In: What Really Happens When Mothers Go Back to Work

Table of Contents


Introduction: Are Mothers’ Experiences Constrained across States?
1. Theorizing the United States as a Welfare State: Lessons from Previous Research and Directions for the Future
2. Mapping the “United” States: Maternal Employment, Child Care, and School-Aged-Care Resources
3. State Politics, Policies, and Maternal Employment: Examining Female Social and Political Empowerment across States
4. Toward a Typology of U.S. Mother-Friendly Welfare States and Its Political, Religious, and Sociodemographic Determinants
5. Gendered Institutional State Contexts and Gender-Empowered and Child-Care Regimes
Conclusion: Policy Recommendations for the Future


About the Author(s)

Leah Ruppanner is an Associate Professor of Sociology and the Codirector of the Policy Lab at the University of Melbourne. She is also a Fellow at the ARC Centre for Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course and an international collaborator in the Social Policy and Family Dynamics of Europe program at Stockholm University.