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Generational differences in women's attitudes towards paid employment in a British city: the role of habitus

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Most studies of women's work orientations are based on the attitudes and experiences of women with dependent children and conceptualise women's decision-making in terms of moral positions on the combination of paid work and motherhood. Thus, work orientations are understood within a 'gender model' (Dex 1988), which assumes that women's family situation drives their attitudes towards paid work. This article draws on qualitative interview data collected from interviews with women in two age groups living in Oxford, UK, to explore generational differences in women's work orientations and labour market behaviour. Drawing on a Bourdieusian framework, it considers specifically how changing social, economic and moral geographies, incorporating expectations about women's economic and caring roles, have influenced the habitus of older and younger women. The results of the study suggest that whilst caring responsibilities clearly influence women's attitudes and employment patterns, paid work is more important to younger women's sense of themselves and 'gender models' of work orientations do not adequately describe their attitudes.
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Keywords: Bourdieu; Oxford; habitus; women; work orientations

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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