Gender Norms, Fairness and Relative Working Hours within Households
AbstractGender equality in the labor market has come a long way in the US since the 1950s. Yet, female labor force participation has plateaued since the mid-1990s and the gender pay gap continues to remain very high at around 20% among working age full-time workers.
Given that standard labor arguments do not seem to explain the persistent gender gap in labor force participation and earnings in the recent cohorts, many researchers have turned their attentions to alternative explanations, one of which is gender norms identity. One notable empirical study in this area is the work by Bertrand et al. (2015).
In this paper, we study the impacts of relative working hours within households. We show that women in the US are significantly more likely to opt out from the labor market altogether when their potential working hours exceed those of their husbands’ , either that or reduce their number of hours worked below their potential if they decide to work. These relationships hold once we control for relative income within the household. In addition, women who work more than their husbands, are more likely to be less satisfied with their married life, and are therefore more likely to divorce. By contrast, men are not affected by being in a relationship where women work longer hours than they do.
We argue that these patterns have less to do with guilt from violating gender identity norms (Bertrand et al., 2015), and are best explained by women’s perception of fairness regarding the division of work in the labor market and at home. While men whose wives work relatively longer hours have been shown to be generally egalitarian in their attitudes, there is little evidence of them stepping up and increasing the number of hours that they spend on household chores on a weekly basis.