During the 1980s a significant growth in the proportion of women returning to work quickly post-childbirth became apparent. It was observed, however, that a polarization of opportunities was emerging, with professional women becoming the main beneficiaries of change - a trend that was predicted to accelerate during the 1990s. Comparing two cohorts of women born in 1958 and 1970, this article indicates that the trend toward faster returns continued but that the experiences of professional and non-professional women converged.The predictors of return rates also changed over this period: while occupational class was an important determinant of return timing in the 1980s, by the mid-1990s this was no longer the case. Instead the financial burden of mortgage debt was pushing women into early work returns. Associated with these changes, a reduction in the incidence of downward occupational mobility, was observed, with the greatest improvements experienced by clerical and secretarial workers.
(Reprinted by permission of Sage Publications Ltd from Smeaton, Deborah (2006) Work return rates after childbirth in the UK - trends, determinants and implications: a comparison of cohorts born in 1958 and 1970. Â© 2006 BSA Publications Ltd.).