Housework, Gender Ideology and Partners'' Fertility Intentions: Reconsidering Men''s Role in Gender Revolution Theory

Barbara S. Okun, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Liat Raz-Yurovich, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Men’s fertility intensions and ideals have not received enough theoretical and empirical attention in the demographic literature. We argue that the flipside of gender equity theory suggests that as men (are expected to) do more housework and childcare, they may enjoy less independent leisure time and experience greater work-family conflict. They may thus have lower ideal family sizes, lower fertility intentions, and lower actual fertility. We therefore ask whether there is a gender asymmetry in the effects of (additional) childbirth and division of household labor on fertility intentions of women and their partners. We utilize the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) to trace fertility intentions of women and their male partners over time, in response to changes in housework done, and subsequent to an (additional) birth. Moreover, we examine whether relationships between changing amounts of time devoted to housework and fertility intentions are mediated by partners'' gender ideologies.

Recent literature has suggested that as the gender revolution is completed, with women becoming increasingly educated as compared with their partners (Esteve et al. 2016), men will take on a greater role in the home, and fertility will rise as women experience less work-family conflict and partnerships stabilize (Goldscheider et al. 2015; Esping-Andersen and Billari, 2015; Myrskylä et al., 2011). In particular, women who perceive the division of household labor and childcare with their partner as more egalitarian or equitable, may have correspondingly higher fertility ideals and intentions, as well as higher actual fertility and more stable unions (Esping-Andersen and Billari, 2015; Frisco and Williams, 2003). Importantly, fertility is also expected to increase because men will want to have more children, as they become more family-oriented and enjoy happier partnerships (Goldscheider et al. 2015).

In this paper, we suggest that there should be greater theoretical and empirical attention paid to men''s fertility intentions and ideals, and the implications of men''s intentions and behaviors for actual levels of fertility, as put forth in Thomson (1997) and Thomson et al. (1990). We argue further that the flipside of gender equity theory suggests that as men (are expected to) do more housework and childcare, they may enjoy less independent leisure time and experience greater work-family conflict; they may thus have lower ideal family sizes, lower fertility intentions, and lower actual fertility (Presser 2001). Due to ideology or dynamics with the partner, these men know they will (be expected to) take on a greater part of the work involved in caring for a(nother) child, and doing associated housework. If this is the case, then as men take on greater roles in the home, their lifestyles and time constraints are affected; they may thus have a greater stake in determining their future fertility, and may prefer to limit family size.

Even as outsourcing of housework and childcare become increasingly important in the equation that household members must solve in order to budget their time (Raz-Yurovich 2014; Raz-Yurovich 2016), there will always remain an important element of negotiation between partners, as to who will take responsibility for remaining household and care work.

Thus, we argue that, at least to a certain extent, as men become more gender egalitarian in their attitudes and are expected to relieve their partners of some household responsibilities, men will become more similar to women in terms of anticipating and actually experiencing greater work-family conflict; they will feel more acutely the price of parenthood. This is in contrast to the gender revolution theory, which posits that changes in gender norms and attitudes will lead to higher fertility intentions and higher actual fertility, for both women and men.

The current research asks whether gender egalitarianism, and the actual experience of caring for a young child, are differentially associated with the fertility intentions of partners. In particular, we ask: is there gender asymmetry in the effects of (additional) childbirth and division of household labor on fertility intentions of women and their partners? We utilize the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) to trace fertility intentions of partners over time, in response to changes in housework done, and subsequent to an (additional) birth. We hypothesize that men who increase the amount of time devoted to housework, following the birth of a child, will be more likely to revise downward their fertility intentions than will their partners. Moreover, we examine whether the relationship between changing amounts of time devoted to housework and fertility intentions is mediated by partners'' gender ideologies. The empirical contribution of this paper is two-fold. First, we examine fertility intentions of each of the partners, rather than referring to actual fertility, which is the outcome of the couple''s unobserved decision-making process. Second, we use panel data on each member of the household, which allows us to measure changes over the life course in the gender division of household labor (as reported by each partner), gender ideology of each spouse, as well as changes in fertility intentions for each partner following childbirth. Most previous research in this area has focused on changes in actual fertility as it is related to gender egalitarianism, or on fertility intentions in one point in time.

We propose to conduct analyses at two levels. The first level is the individual-level, where the focus will be on gender comparisons of the relationships between housework, gender ideology and fertility intentions among persons in unions. The second level is the couple-level, where the focus will be on the degree of consensus in fertility intentions between partners, and how this consensus is related to division of housework and gender ideologies of both partners. In both types of analysis, we will pay particular attention to changes in the family functioning and fertility intentions, following the birth of a(nother) child.

Presented in Session 1160: Fertility