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Unformatted text preview: More Alike than Different: Revisiting the Long-Term Prospects for Developing ‘‘European-Style’’ Work/Family Policies in the United States JANET C. GORNICK* and MARCIA K. MEYERS** *Department of Political Science, Baruch College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, NY, USA; **School of Social Work and Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA ABSTRACT American and European parents experience common problems but sharply different social policy supports. American advocates often argue that Europe’s work/family policies would benefit American families and mitigate gender inequality. Other observers argue that the US will never adopt European-style policies because they are inconsistent with American political culture and preferences, infeasible given demographic and labor market conditions, and have negative and costly consequences. This article assesses each of these arguments and concludes that the longer- term prospects for developing European-style work/family policy in the US are substantially greater than popular wisdom suggests. Introduction: The Popular Wisdom About American Family Policy Exceptionalism American family policy researchers and advocates have long noted the superiority of European policy supports for working parents, especially in the countries of northern and western Europe. Thirty years ago, the American scholars Kahn and Kamerman (1975) published their first detailed reports on public family leave and child care provisions in other countries. Since then, Americans advocating family policy expansion have frequently pointed to the European 1 systems as models. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, American concern with the problems of working families intensified, along with interest in public policies that could alleviate those problems. Welfare reform debates, which peaked in 1996, reopened longstanding questions about maternal employment, parental responsibilities, and child well-being. Correspondence Address: Janet C. Gornick, Department of Political Science, Baruch College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, 17 Lexington Avenue, New York City, NY 10010, USA. Email: [email protected] Janet C. Gornick is Associate Professor of Political Science at Baruch College, and at The Graduate Center, of the City University of New York. She is also Associate Director of the Luxembourg Income Study. She has published extensively on comparative social welfare policy, with a focus on consequences for families. Marcia K. Meyers is Associate Professor of Social Work and Public Affairs at the University of Washington, and an Aﬃliate of the Social Indicators Survey Center at Columbia University. Her research focuses on public policies and programs for vulnerable populations, with a particular focus on issues of poverty, inequality, and policy implementation....
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