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Keywords:

  • occupational segregation;
  • part-timers;
  • mobility;
  • segmentation

It is often argued that women's full-time work is becoming less gender segregated, while their part-time work becomes more so. This article looks cross-sectionally and longitudinally at the relationship between occupational sex segregation and part-time work. An innovative application of segregation curves and the Gini index measures segregation between women full-timers and men and between women part-timers and men. Both fell between 1971 and 1991, as did overall occupational sex segregation. These results were used to contextualize a longitudinal analysis showing how shifts between full-time and part-time hours affected women's experiences of occupational sex segregation and vertical mobility. Human capital explanations see full-time and part-time workers as distinct groups whose occupational choices reflect anticipated family roles. The plausibility of this emphasis on long-term strategic planning is challenged by substantial and characteristic patterns of occupational mobility when women switch between full-time and part-time hours. The segmented nature of part-time work meant that women who switched to part-time hours, usually over child rearing, were often thrown off their occupational path into low-skilled, feminized work. There was some ‘occupational recovery’ when they resumed full-time work.