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Conference Paper BHPS-2007 Conference: the 2007 British Household Panel Survey Research Conference, 5 July -7 July 2007, Colchester, UK

Inequality or total workload? How domestic work matters to childbearing among British dual earner couples


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This study explores under what circumstances couples’ division of housework and childcare responsibility may affect their likelihood to have a first or second child. Having a child usually changes women's lives more than men's, since mothers reduce their hours in paid work on average more than fathers. Alternatively, many women put up with the double burden of working full-time and doing most of the caring, either motivated by career aspirations or economic need. While a traditional division of paid and domestic labour may still be an effective arrangement for some couples, an increasing number of women either find these compromises difficult to accept or feel they cannot provide and care for their children as they would like. As a result, they may renounce on having children or reduce the number of children they have. For these women, men's contributions to domestic work are likely to be an important factor to facilitate combining children and employment. While previous studies mostly investigate the general importance of men’s domestic contributions for male breadwinner compared to dualearner families, this research in addition attempts to shed light on possible causes by exploring to what extent the likelihood of becoming parents of a first or second child among dual-earner couples may be reduced 1) due to a mismatch between practiced division of domestic work and women’s gender role attitudes or 2) due to women’s large workload as a result of long hours spent on paid and domestic work. The empirical analysis uses event-history modelling and is based on data from eleven waves of the British Household Panel Survey. Husbands’ housework contributions make parenthood more likely for wives who work long hours in their jobs. While traditional male breadwinner families are overall most likely to have a second child, both inequality in housework division and women’s large paid and domestic workload reduce the probability of a second birth in dual-earner couples.


Households, Childbearing: Fertility, Income Dynamics, and Household Economics


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