Division of Paid and Unpaid Work within Couples and His and Her View on Fairness: Implications for Childbearing and Partnership Dissolution

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

Recently, it has been claimed that gender equality and equity in the family tend to increase fertility and partnership stability. The strength of this association, however, depends on prevailing gender relations and the level of social support within society. We investigate the impact of gender equality (division of paid employment, housework, child care), of gender equity (perception of fairness) and its potential changes over time on the transition to parenthood, to a second birth, and to partnership dissolution. Using eight waves of the German Family Panel (pairfam), we apply discrete-time multinomial logistic regression models to cohorts of young women and men in co-residential unions to determine whether a birth or a separation occurs in a given year.

The strength of our approach is based on the availability of prospective panel data provided by both partners within couples: By following our respondents over eight successive panel years, while repeatedly measuring their perception of gender equality and equity in the year before any of the demographic events occurred, enables us to capture changes over the life course more fully than previously done. It allows conducting a comprehensive analysis on the explanatory power of the female, the male or a couple’s perspective on gender equality and equity for family-related transitions. Thus, we are able to show whether women’s or men’s assessments are relatively more influential for the transitions under study. Furthermore, we explore the role of consistent or inconsistent evaluations of gender equality and equity within couples for childbearing and partnership dissolutions.

So far our findings point to the importance of the perceived equity of the division of labor for family-related decisions. In addition, they underscore that fertility decisions are largely negotiated within a couple while this does not necessarily apply to separations which might be initiated and pursued by one partner alone.

Presented in Session 90: Gender Roles and Attitudes over the Life Course