Gender division of labor and perceived fairness within couples: implications for continued childbearing in Germany

Katja Köppen, University of Rostock
Heike Trappe, University of Rostock

McDonald (2000) suggested that higher levels of gender equity in a society in combination with increasing gender equity within the family tend to raise fertility. If the increase in gender equity in institutions such as education and the labor market is associated with low levels of gender equity within the family, women might feel overburdened and might opt to have fewer children than they otherwise would have intended. More recent research adds another dimension by pointing at the importance of within-couple negotiations concerning the gender division of labor for fertility decisions (Mills 2010). What seems to be even more important than the actual division of labor is the perceived fairness of this division. Existing studies focus on a variety of European countries and the US. While many of these results suggest that families with more equal arrangements in the division of labor display higher fertility, others found the contrary. With this study we want to contribute to the existing research by evaluating the impact of the division of employment, child care and housework within couples on childbearing as compared to its perceived fairness. Does the actual division of labor among partners have an impact on the transition to a first or further child? Is this impact mediated through the perceived fairness of the division of labor or does perceived fairness have an additional influence on childbearing? We apply a life-course perspective by focusing on the transition to first, second and higher-order births. We use data from the first four waves of the German Family Panel pairfam and its East German subsample DemoDiff. Our preliminary results support the idea that couples employment situation and the general perception of fairness regarding the division of paid and unpaid work are important for fertility decisions. However, the number of previous children is decisive.

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Presented in Session 5: Demographic consequences of gender inequality and division of labour