While the strong link between marriage and childbearing in Japan means that the growth in multi-partner fertility observed in the U.S. and Europe (Thomson et al. 2014) is limited, stepfamily fertility is potentially relevant. Evidence that about 40 % of divorced women remarry (Raymo and Iwasawa 2014) indicates the potential for rising levels of family complexity. However, the absence of research on remarriage means that we know very little about stepfamily fertility in Japan. There is some evidence that levels of childbearing within remarriages are quite low (Raymo and Iwasawa 2014), but nothing is known about educational differences in stepfamily fertility and their implications for family complexity and its role in shaping the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage. We summarize data on stepfamily fertility in Sect. 4.3.
As noted in Chap. 1, mothers’ attachment to the labor force is another dimension of family change central to the pattern of diverging destinies. More stable employment in higher paying jobs for highly educated women is thought to contribute to growing family income inequality and bifurcation in the economic resources available to children (Schwartz 2010). The highly asymmetric division of labor within Japanese couples makes this a particularly interesting research focus. For women, higher education has long been associated with lower levels of employment because these women typically married high-earning men capable of supporting the socially desirable role of mother and homemaker (Brinton 1993; Kohara 2007). Recent research on socioeconomic differentials in married women’s employment paints a mixed picture, with evidence of growth in dual-earner couples among those with the highest earnings potential (Kohara 2008) balanced by evidence that highly educated women are also the least likely to reenter the labor force after exiting prior to childbirth (Raymo and Lim 2011). In general, it appears that relatively high rates of labor force participation among less-educated women reflect economic necessity while the heterogeneous behavior of highly educated women reflects a split between those with preferences for career employment and those with preferences for a primarily domestic focus (Raymo and Lim 2011).
One potentially important dimension of stratification among mothers in the labor market is employment type. As in the U.S. and many other western countries, Japan has witnessed a rapid increase in nonstandard employment (Osawa et al. 2013; Rebick 2005). It is clear that this type of employment is heavily concentrated among women (Futagami 2010; Houseman and Osawa 2003), but less research has been done on educational differences in the type of employment. One recent study finds that nonstandard employment is more common among women with lower levels of education and links this pattern to educational differences in women’s employment stability (Lim and Raymo 2014). Because women who reenter the labor market after exiting almost always work in nonstandard employment (Lim and Raymo 2014; Yu 2002), the instability of less-educated women’s employment trajectory results in a higher prevalence of nonstandard employment. Married women with a four-year college degree are distinctive for the relative stability of their employment status (regardless of whether they are in standard employment, nonstandard employment, or not employed). Because nonstandard jobs tend to be low paid and provide little stability or opportunity for advancement, concentration of this type of employment among less-educated women is a potentially important mechanism of stratification consistent with ideas central to the notion of diverging destinies. We present data on the employment status of mothers in Sect. 4.5.