Research Paper Working Papers of the ESRC Research Centre on Micro-Social Change 97-08
Exit, voice and suffering: do couples adapt to changing employment patterns?
01 Jun 1997
There is a longstanding debate about the degree to which explanations of economic behaviour need to be 'situated' in particular historical and social contexts: it has been argued that economists under- and sociologists over-estimate this. This paper proposes an intermediate position, a model of 'lagged adaptation' in which rational choice plays a role alongside social structural constraints in the determination of economic action. It provides an extended empirical example, concerning the process of determination of the division of domestic labour among married or cohabiting couples (as estimated from the panel respondents' answers to questions about their own domestic work time). It gives, for the first time, direct evidence that the balance of domestic labour between men and women in couples is directly influenced by changes in their spouses' participation in paid work. It uses data from three national household panel surveys (from the UK, Germany and the US) to illustrate the class of research problem that requires panel evidence rather than cross-sectional or retrospective data for its solution.