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Abstract

This paper compares recent policy trends affecting the work-family needs of women heading households, a population that has increased dramatically in both America and Sweden. Unlike existing American policy debates that largely discuss single mothers as a public welfare dependent population, this paper addresses female-headed householders as high-level users of policies and programs aimed at integrating work life and family life.

Most cross-national research and policy debate efforts argue that Swedish policy, in stark contrast to American policy, promote women combining employment with parenting responsibilities. This study argues that policy developments directly targeted to enhance an employee's ability to combine work and family exist in both Sweden and the US. In the US, these policies primarily exist in the private sector, while both Swedish public and private sector policy provide family-responsive work policy. However, in both societies, policy supporting employed parents, whether public or private, tends to target groups with strong ties to the labor market. As a result, American single mothers, compared to their Swedish counterparts, are not likely to benefit from existing family-responsive policy due to their weak position in the labor market.

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