Married women who live in communities in which a higher proportion of the population belongs to conservative religious traditions are more likely to choose not to work outside the home, even if they are not members of those faith groups, according to a new study.
While previous research has shown individual women's religious beliefs affect career decisions, the study by Baylor University researchers argues that the religious context of a geographic area also influences women's solutions to work-family conflict.
Women today are faced with increasing demands from family and work leading to more work-family conflict, researchers said.
This combined with communal family expectations can cause many women to decrease the amount they work or exit the labour force altogether, they said.
Views of the "ideal family" in terms of family roles and responsibilities are influenced by community norms - including religion, said researcher Jenna Griebel Rogers, a doctoral candidate in the department of sociology in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences.
"Communities come to have a feeling all their own, and that sense of what makes one community different than another comes from the collective beliefs, values and expectations of all members of that community," said co-researcher Aaron B Franzen, a former Baylor sociology researcher and assistant professor of sociology at Hope College.
"On some level, this will influence people within the community even if they have not personally 'bought into' a belief," he said.
"Since religious beliefs often have something to say about family life, we wanted to see if this had a communal effect," he said.
Researchers limited their study to married women aged 18 to 65 and identified women who were working, temporarily laid off and actively looking for work.
The study appears in the journal Religions.