Abstract

Multivariate analysis of the 1974 Malaysian Fertility and Family Survey tests the hypothesis that an inverse relationship between women’s work and fertility occurs only when there are serious conflicts between working and caring for children. The results are only partly consistent with the hypothesis and suggest that normative conflicts between working and mothering affect the employment-fertility relationship in Malaysia more than spacio-temporal conflicts do. The lack of consistent evidence for the hypothesis, as well as some conceptual problems, lead us to propose an alternative framework for understanding variation in the employment-fertility relationship, both in Malaysia and elsewhere. This framework incorporates ideas from the role incompatibility hypothesis but views the employment-fertility relationship as dependent not just on role conflicts but more generally on the structure of the household’s socioeconomic opportunities.

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