Professor of Sociology and Political Science, Northwestern University
Expertise & Civic Involvements
Orloff’s research focuses on how U.S. policies about parental leave, child care and gender equality have evolved over the past half century, and how they compare to policies in other nations. In particular, she is investigating the impact of feminist and anti-feminist political mobilization, employers’ demand for women workers, and the historical legacies of social provision for mothers and children. Orloff is the co-founder and editor of Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State and Society, and past President of the Social Science History Association and the International Sociological Association Research Committee Nineteen on Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy. She also serves on the advisory boards of a number of European research networks that are investigating social policy and equality.
"Should Feminists Aim for Gender Symmetry?: Why a Dual-Earner/Dual-Career Model May Not be Every Feminist’s Utopia" in Gender Equality: Transforming Family Divisions of Labor, edited by Janet Gornick and Marcia Meyers (Verso, 2009), 129-160. Uses cross-national evidence to assess the potential for different policy proposals to gain political support and further gender equality; among the proposals surveyed are caregiver allowances, paid parental leave and expanded child care services, and incentives for fathers to engage in primary caregiving. Asks about the effect of greater population diversity – in religion, lifestyle, ethnicity, and more – on the prospects for different policy proposals, and for gender equality.
"From Maternalism to ‘Employment for All’: State Policies to Promote Women’s Employment Across the Affluent Democracies" in The State After Statism: New State Activities in the Era of Globalization and Liberalization, edited by Jonah Levy (Harvard University Press, 2006), 230-68. Compares U.S. policies promoting mothers’ employment with those in Sweden. Finds that concerns for gender equality guided developments in both countries, but in very different ways: the U.S. has relied especially on the regulation of labor markets through anti-discrimination legislation, while Sweden has relied especially on the expansion of public child-care services and generous parental leaves.
"Markets Not States? The Weakness of State Social Provision for Breadwinning Men in the U.S" in Families of a New World, edited by Lynne Haney and Lisa Pollard (Routledge, 2003), 217-45. Looks at social provision from the perspective of men’s work and family status, and examines the surprising lack of explicit public support for male breadwinning in the United States.
"Women’s Employment and Welfare Regimes: Europe and North America," working paper for United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, Project on Globalization, Export-Oriented Employment for Women and Social Policy, May, 2002. Describes and explains women’s employment and the social policies that affect it in the United States and other rich democracies. Also examines the kinds of support available for women when they cannot work for pay, particularly when they are engaged in periods of intense caregiving.
"Explaining U.S. Welfare Reform: Power, Gender, Race and the U.S. Policy Legacy" Critical Social Policy 22, no. 1 (2002): 97-119. Assesses and explains the impact of welfare reform and expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit from a gendered perspective, showing how full-time caregiving by poor mothers has been eliminated as a basis for making claims, while certain supports for poor parents have been expanded. Republican pressures against generous support leave many parents with inadequate means to meet family needs.
States, Markets, Families: Gender, Liberalism and Social Policy in Australia, Canada, Great Britain, and the United States (with ) (Cambridge University Press, 1999). Examines the impact of social policy changes on gender roles and relationships in four democracies in an era of economic restructuring and deregulation. Special attention to three key policy areas: labor markets, income maintenance and reproductive rights.
- Guest to discuss "The State of Feminism" with co-panelists on WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, June 28, 2001.
- Interview on welfare reform, PBS's "Think Tank", August 1, 1997.
Talks and Briefings
- "Can We Support Care and Gender Equality?," Lecture in the series “So, What? Public Lectures in Contemporary Humanities and Social Sciences, organized by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences at University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, July 16, 2009.