children playing

The Palgrave handbook of family policy

Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version
Nieuwenhuis, R.; Van Lancker, W. (Eds.)
Book / booklet
Publication Date: 
1 May 2020

Excerpted from overview

This open access handbook provides a multilevel view on family policies, combining insights on family policy outcomes at different levels of policymaking: supra-national organizations, national states, sub-national or regional levels, and finally smaller organizations and employers. At each of these levels, a multidisciplinary group of expert scholars assess policies and their implementation, such as child income support, childcare services, parental leave, and leave to provide care to frail and elderly family members. The chapters evaluate their impact in improving children’s development and equal opportunities, promoting gender equality, regulating fertility, productivity and economic inequality, and take an intersectional perspective related to gender, class, and family diversity. The editors conclude by presenting a new research agenda based on five major challenges pertaining to the levels of policy implementation (in particular globalization and decentralization), austerity and marketization, inequality, changing family relations, and welfare states adapting to women’s empowered roles.

Excerpted from introduction 

What do the United Nations, the nation-state, a big city, and your local supermarket have in common? They all craft policies for families. At each of these levels of governance, family policies are formulated, voted for, implemented, and carried out—or not. And it is this whole set of multilevel policies that ultimately affect families’ and individuals’ choices, opportunities, constraints, and capability in terms of work, care, and well-being. Of course, it is not simply a matter of trickle-down politics, with the highest level deciding and the other level following suit. There is constant interaction, exchange of norms and ideas, and policy feedback and learning between levels. The story of family policies and their outcomes can be read in many different ways, from bottom-up to top-down, from horizontal to vertical. Still, it is not the supermarket that designs family policies to be carried out at higher levels nor does the supermarket’s company regulations affect many people outside of their shop. In contrast, Directives by the European Commission do affect all European citizens, at least in principle, and limit the scope of decision making for national politicians. For that reason, we begin our story at the top tier of governance, and throughout the book we descend over national and subnational policies to the local and company-level policies.