Sociologists Find Family-Friendly Benefits Aren't Shared Equally

May 29, 1998

According to a statewide study conducted by the University of Cincinnati's Kunz Center for the Study of Work and Family, Ohio employers are more likely to offer "family friendly" benefits to managers and college-educated workers than to production workers and those with lower skills.

In March 1998, working parents in Ohio were randomly selected to respond to the Kunz Center's new Survey of Ohio's Working Families. Respondents were shown a list of 12 workplace benefits and asked to check those available to them at their jobs.

There were no differences by education or job position in the receipt of traditional benefits, such as paid vacations, sick leave and health insurance coverage. Approximately 80 percent of Ohio's working parents received these benefits.

But managers and college-educated workers were more likely to be offered benefits that reduced conflict between work and family obligations. For example, flexible working hours were available to 69 percent of managers and 60 percent of college-educated workers compared with only 41 percent of production workers and 49 percent of non-college graduates. Similarly, managers (41 percent of managers compared to 20 percent of production workers) and college graduates (37 percent of college graduates compared to 19 percent of non-college graduates) were more likely to be given the opportunity to work at home.

The provision of other "family-friendly" benefits varied. On-site day care and child-care subsidies were offered to only one in 10 Ohio workers. About one-quarter of Ohio workers could share a job with another worker or pursue a part-time career, while 75 percent of Ohio workers were offered maternity or paternity leave.

More than 500 Ohio residents responded to the random survey. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percent.

"Employers are more likely to offer 'family-friendly' benefits to workers they want to keep, such as managers and the highly skilled," said David J. Maume Jr., UC sociologist, Kunz Center director and author of the Ohio study.

The survey also discovered another finding that might prove valuable to employers interested in fostering company loyalty, Maume said. In the Ohio study, the number of "family friendly" benefits available to workers was significantly associated with a willingness to work harder to help their companies succeed, with pride in working for their companies and a positive view of employee-management relations.

The purpose of the Survey of Ohio's Working Families is to examine the many ways families deal with the problems of balancing work and family life, particularly in light of the dramatic changes in women's work and family roles in the last half century.

The Kunz Center for the Study of Work and Family is a group of scholars who do research on family/work issues. The center is headquartered in UC's Department of Sociology. More information about the Kunz Center and the survey can be obtained from the Kunz Center's web page at

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