The role of gender role attitudes and immigrant generation in ethnic minority women’s labor force participation in Britain

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

Sex Roles


Senhu Wang

Publication date


Although substantial research shows that in Britain some ethnic minority women have significantly lower labor force participation (LFP) rates than White British women, even after controlling for demographic characteristics and education levels, little is known about the reasons underlying the remaining ethnic differences. Using nationally representative data (2010–2011), I investigate the role of gender role attitudes in explaining the ethnic as well as generational differences in women’s LFP rates. The results show that after controlling for demographic characteristics and education levels, LFP rates of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are significantly lower than that of White British women and about half of the ethnic gap can be explained by differences in gender role attitudes. Moreover, I show that the ethnic gap is less pronounced for second generation Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Indian women whose LFP rates are significantly higher than those of their first generation counterparts. Importantly, the higher LFP rates of second generation South Asian women can be largely explained by their relatively less traditional gender role attitudes. Drawing on my results, public policies could provide appropriate childcare services and flexible work arrangements to alter traditional gender role attitudes, thereby improving minority women’s labor market opportunities.

Volume and page numbers

80, 234-245





Migration, Labour Market, Ethnic Groups, Social Attitudes and Sociology


Open Access; © The Author(s) 2018; This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.