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Eman Abdelhadi

Research Findings

How wearing the hijab may influence labor market outcomes

August 25, 2020

On average, Muslim women work for pay less than other women around the world, but until recently, we did not know if this was also true in the United States. A study I published recently answers this question and digs into which Muslim women might be less engaged in paid work outside the home and why. I find that only visibly Muslim women, those who wear the hijab, have significantly lower employment than non-Muslim women.

Why should we care about Muslim women’s employment?

Demographers, sociologists, and economists track women’s employment, because participation in the labor force has been linked to women’s empowerment both individually and across societies. Paid work may have many downsides—especially when juggled with a disproportionate amount of care work—but in capitalist economies, it is a key component of financial independence, which has been shown to impact wellbeing. As a result, we often think of women’s employment as an indicator not just of women’s individual outcomes, but also of overall gender inequality in a society. For example, Paula England argues that the plateau in women’s entry into the labor force in the United States in the 1990s and 2010s is evidence that the gender revolution has stalled.

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