Only Equality in the Household Will Allow Us to Complete the Gender Revolution
POLITICAL SCIENCES |

Only Equality in the Household Will Allow Us to Complete the Gender Revolution

NEW RESEARCH BY PAOLA PROFETA, DIRECTOR OF THE AXA RESEARCH LAB ON GENDER EQUALITY AT BOCCONI, SHOWS THAT THE MAN'S INVOLVEMENT IN HOUSEWORK RAISES BY 62% THE CHANCES FOR A WORKING MOTHER TO HAVE A SECOND CHILD WITH HIM AND CONTINUE TO WORK

With the increase of women’s higher education and their stronger presence in the labor market, only the first half of the gender revolution has been accomplished, as working women bear the new burden of working while continuing to be the primary housemaker and caregiver, often with the consequence of being forced to leave the labor market or having fewer children than desired.
 
A study by Paola Profeta, Professor of Public Economics and Director of the AXA Research Lab on Gender Equality at Bocconi, and Ester Fanelli (Brown University), in press in Demography, shows that the involvement of fathers in housework and (to a lesser extent) in childcare has a positive impact on both fertility decisions and full-time employment of the mother. The man’s contribution at home helps to alleviate the work-family trade-off, supporting the woman’s decision to continue to work and to have an additional child after the first one. Social and demographic research has in fact established that biological, psychological, and social incentives remain strong enough to have at least one child and that the proportion of women who intend to have two children is dominant in most developed countries – but many of them are forced to refrain.
 
The authors use the data of the two waves of the Generations and Gender Survey (GGS) in five countries in Central and Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Russia). The essential feature of the GGS is that it interviews the same individuals in two subsequent waves, two to three years apart: this allows researchers to analyze the effect of the domestic division of tasks during the first interview on the likelihood of a second birth and of the female partner not leaving the labor market before the second interview.
 
Results show that a father’s involvement in housework raises the probability for a working mother of having a second child and continuing to work by 62%, while the effect of a father’s involvement in childcare is positive, but not statistically significant.
 
In detail, a father’s involvement in housework raises the probability of having a second child by 27% and it raises the likelihood that the mother continues to work by 48%. The effect of father’s involvement in childcare is of a similar magnitude for the probability of having a second child, but is statistically significant only for some subsamples of interviewees, and is null for the likelihood of the woman remaining in the labor market.
 
Men’s fertility and work decisions are instead unrelated to mothers’ housework and childcare, in line with the fact that women always contribute to domestic and childcare activities, while men are the marginal contributors.
 
“Our results confirm that gender equality in the private sphere can reinforce gender equality in the public sphere,” Professor Profeta concludes. “Policies which encourage a symmetric division of labor within the couple, such as exclusive paternity leaves, may sustain the double-earner family model and the recovery of fertility rates, leading towards a more gender egalitarian equilibrium where mothers work and couples reach their fertility intentions.”
 
Ester Fanelli, Paola Profeta. “Fathers’ Involvement in the Family, Fertility and Maternal Employment: Evidence from Central and Eastern Europe”. (in press) in Demography.

by Fabio Todesco
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