Liana Christin Landivar

Mothers at Work

Who Opts Out?

Lynne Rienner Publishers 2017

New Books in EconomicsNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network June 13, 2017 Sarah Patterson

A big question in Sociology regarding work and gender is: which mothers opt out of the labor force to take care of children? Popularly...

A big question in Sociology regarding work and gender is: which mothers opt out of the labor force to take care of children? Popularly known as “opting out,” this trend is often seen as a mother’s personal choice rather than a decision made within a set of cultural and structural constraints in women’s everyday lives. Building upon previous work, Liana Christin Landivar‘s new book Mothers at Work: Who Opts Out? (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2017) uses nationally representative data to inquire into who exactly is opting out and who is staying in the labor force. Most media coverage on the topic focuses on women who work in management or other professional level occupations, but Landivar’s book looks at a wide spectrum of occupations and finds that the question of who opts out is much more nuanced. She finds that investigating occupation is key for answering who is opting out. She also delves into the categorizations of work hours, giving consideration not only to part-time work and how that varies by occupation, but also women who scale back, or reduce work hours but not to part-time levels. Additionally, age of the mother, as well as the child, alongside race and educational attainment all help to better understand which mothers are opting out. Landivar gives careful consideration to the structural factors across and between occupations and how they may influence mothers opting out. Finally, this book provides some important methodological insights for the reader, including emphasizing the variations within work hours and the key importance of reference groups used to answer research questions.

This book will be enjoyed by Sociologists broadly, but is key reading for work/family and gender scholars. Folks in gender studies as well as business leaders might enjoy this book and find important insights into which mothers opt out of the labor force. This book would be useful in a gender/work/family class as well as a graduate level methods course, with its careful explanation of modeling and fantastic graphics.


Sarah Patterson is a family demographer and ABD at Penn State. You can follow and tweet her at @spattersearch.