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Keywords:

  • employment;
  • families and work;
  • Middle Eastern families;
  • multilevel models

We analyzed determinants of women's employment with data for 40,792 women living in 103 districts of 6 Arab countries. We tested a new theoretical framework that addresses the roles of needs, opportunities, and values at multiple levels. At the microlevel (individual, family), socioeconomic factors, care duties, and traditionalism were important; at the macrolevel (district), economic development and societal norms were important. Women's education seemed most influential. Interaction analyses showed that returns on women's education depended on their partner's education and on the economic development, labor market structure, urbanization, and strength of traditional norms in the district in which women live. Our results stress the importance of a comprehensive approach toward women's employment in these countries.