Research Paper GeNet Working Papers 42
The parenthood effect on gender inequality: explaining the change in paid and domestic work when British couples become parents
This study examines the importance of couples’ earnings and gender role attitudes before having children for how both partners change their contributions to housework and paid work from before pregnancy to the second year of parenthood. Previous research explored the importance of women’s relative income and both partners’ gender role attitudes for the extent to which the division of labour become more traditional among new parents. This research extends this literature by also considering women’s absolute earnings, which may be crucial given the very high costs of formal childcare in Britain. As the transition to parenthood is a critical junction in terms of gender inequality, the findings contribute to our understanding of what is driving the long-term increase in social and economic inequalities between men and women over the life course. The statistical analysis of 310 couples is based on sixteen waves of the British Household Panel Survey (1992-2007) and applies OLS models with Heckman selection correction. The findings suggest that higher wages and more egalitarian attitudes of British women before motherhood reduce the shift towards a more traditional division of labour more than women’s relative economic position in the household.