Graduate Student Forum

Diverging Destinies in Japan: Educational Differences in the Long-term Effects of Maternal Employment on Development of Japanese Children

Tuesday, 29 June 2021 | 9:00 - 9:45 (JST)
Zoom Webinar
  • Jia Wang Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Rieko Kage Professor, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo

Maternal employment is an important determinant of child development and a key family behavior in “diverging destinies” research. Existing studies pays insufficient attention to educational differences in the relationships between maternal employment and children’s well-being, and how such educational gradients may depend on different types of maternal employment. This study focuses on Japan, an East Asian society where educational disparities in maternal employment are limited compared to the west, and a large proportion of mothers are working in nonstandard jobs. Results demonstrate overall negative effects of cumulative exposure to maternal work on Japanese children’s well-being, particularly for cognitive scores. Such detrimental effects, however, are almost exclusively limited to children with less-educated mothers without a college degree. In particular, less-educated mothers’ longer hours and regular jobs have substantial adverse impacts on children’s cognitive outcomes, whereas negative influences of nonstandard jobs are less pronounced. Our study reveals diverging destinies of Japanese children primarily due to educational differences in “returns” rather than compositional differences of family behaviors, and highlight the importance of considering types of maternal employment under changing economic environment and specific contexts.


Jia Wang is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her general interests include social stratification, inequality, and family demography. She is particularly interested in the consequences of nonstandard employment and work schedules on life chances of individuals and their children, and how such stratifying role of nonstandard work varies across education groups.