Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

First Advisor

Natasha B. Sugiyama

Committee Members

Erin Kaheny, Jennifer K. Smith, Joel Rast, John Bohte


Civil Society, Family Leave, Maternity Leave, Path Dependency, Social Construction of Gender, Welfare State


Why do countries have different family policy outcomes? This comparative analysis of maternity, paternity and family leave policies in the United States and United Kingdom traces the historical development of family policies from 1960-2010 in order to understand the trajectory of the gendered welfare state. The dissertation uncovers the impact that the social construction of gender has on family policy outcomes. I look to civil society activity and the legal framework for evidence of gender norms. Analysis draws on field research, interviews, archival sources and data collected from governmental and nongovernmental organizations. I suggest that the social construction of gender influences policymaking and helps to explain the path dependent development of family policies over time. With contrasting equality frameworks in each country established in the mid-1960s, I find that the policy trajectories are largely unchanged. Thus, there are limited opportunities for significantly altering the future development of family policies.