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Gender equality at home

Author(s): NOVA Report 8/12

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Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 1 presents research questions and reviews prior findings, with emphasis placed on Norway. The main research questions are: How do married or cohabiting men and women in various age-cohorts and life stages divide housework and childcare? Does the division of labor vary by socioeconomic status and regional characteristics? How positive are men and women in their attitudes toward gender equality: in different age-cohorts, social classes, and regions? How strong is the relationship between attitudes and division of domestic labor? How satisfied are men and women with different divisions of household chores? Does the division of housework at one point in time predict the risk of relationship dissolution five years later?  

Chapter 2: Data and methods Chapter 2 describes the surveys and samples used. We use data from two separate but related surveys: LOGG and the NorLAG panel. LOGG (the study of Life course, Generation and Gender) was carried out in 2007/2008 (n= 15,140, age 18-79). LOGG builds on the NorLAG panel study (the Norwegian Life course, Ageing and Generations study) (n=3,794, age 40-79). The second wave of data collection in NorLAG was part of LOGG. The panel sample is used in chapter 4. Information about division of housework and childcare is based on questions to partnered individuals about which partner normally carries various common and time-consuming chores. Information about attitudes towards gender equality is based on five questions in the LOGG that are from the international Generations and Gender Survey (GGS). Chapter 2 also describes the operationalization of other variables, such as life stage, social class, and regional characteristics.  

Chapter 3: Division of domestic labor at different stages of the life course: The role of demographic, socioeconomic, and regional characteristics Chapter 3 presents analyses on the division of housework and childcare. Does the division of household labor vary by age-cohort and life stage, socioeconomic status, or regional characteristics? We find that the majority of couples, 65 percent, divide childcare equally or near-equally. Housework, however, is divided more traditionally; women do all or almost all of the work in 11 percent of the couples, and somewhat more in 60 percent of the couples. About 25 percent of the couples divide the housework equally, and men do the most in 4 percent of the couples. Housework is divided more equally in younger than in older age-cohorts, which suggests a more egalitarian division of housework in later generations. Housework is also divided more equally in childless couples than in couples with dependent children. The household chores are also divided more equally if the woman works full-time than if she is unemployed or works part-time. Yet, even when she works full-time, in 65 percent of the couples aged 30-49 she tends to do more housework than him. Socioeconomic status influences the division of housework, and it is her more than his education, income, and occupational class that are influential. The higher socioeconomic status (both genders), the more likely it is that housework is divided equally. We find the same pattern for childcare. We find marked differences between regions and between urban and rural areas. The most egalitarian division of housework is found in urban areas and in the «Oslo and Akershus» region; the most traditional division of housework is found in the region «Østlandet and Agder». Similar regional patterns, albeit less marked, are also found regarding the division of childcare.  

Chapter 4: Does the division of housework change following major life course events? Chapter 4 uses the panel to explore whether major life course transitions affect the division of household labor. We examine two transitions: «empty nest» (all children have moved out) and retirement. The transition to an empty nest does not affect the division of housework. Most couples in midlife seem to have a well-established division of labor that is unaffected by the children’s moving out. The division changes, however, in response to retirement, although the analysis of men and women give a different impression of this change. The analysis of men shows that when he retires and she stays in employment, there is a change toward a more egalitarian division of housework. However, employed women with men who have retired report no change in the division of housework. The analysis of women shows that when she retires, she does (even) more of the housework, independently of whether the partner retires or not. The general pattern, however, is that there is little change in middle-aged and older couple’s division of housework.  

Chapter 5: The role of gender-stereotypical traits in the division of household chores In this chapter we ask whether gender role perceptions can predict the division of domestic chores beyond the effect of «traditional» predictors such as education and employment. Gender-stereotypical and gender non-stereotypical roles are measured by BEM’s Sex Role Inventory, which asks about self-conceptions about instrumental («masculine») and socioemotional («feminin») orientation. We find that men and women with non-stereotypical gender traits («feminine» men and «masculine» women) tend to report a more egalitarian division of housework, compared with their more gender-stereotypical counterparts. Instrumental orientation has no impact on the division of childcare. Socioemotional traits, however, affect this division among men and women; high-scoring men are more likely than other men to take an equal share of childcare, whereas high-scoring women are more likely than other women to take the lion’s share of childcare. We also examine the predictors of gender stereotypical traits. Higher instrumentality is predicted by higher education, occupational class and mother’s education. These predictors play little role in the socioemotional traits, however. We discuss whether socialization of boys and girls towards a greater emphasis on non-traditional gender roles may foster more gender equality—at least in terms of domestic work.  

Chapter 6: Attitudes towards gender equality Chapter 6 examines variation in people’s attitudes towards gender equality. Over the past 25 years, there has been a major shift towards more positive attitudes. At present, most Norwegians hold a favourable attitude towards gender equality, and women more so than men. Most "traditionalists" are men. The few women that hold a negative attitude are mostly older or low-educated women. This pattern is less marked for men. There is a curvilinear relation between age and attitudes, as the youngest, especially men, are less positive towards gender equality than are people in their 30s and 40s. The attitudes are more positive with higher education. There are only minor regional variations in these attitudes. People are the most positive in the "Oslo and Akershus" region and the least positive in the "Agder" region. These differences are explained by levels of urbanity and regional differences in industrial structure, education, and other factors that are part of the gender equality index created by Statistics Norway. A positive attitude towards gender equality is associated with a more egalitarian division of housework and childcare. About half of this relationship is spurious. The clear independent effect of attitudes on the division of household labor suggests that attitudinal interventions represent possible strategies by which to promote gender equality in domestic work. The relationship between attitudes and division of household labor is relatively stable across social groups and regions.  

Chapter 7: What is the relationship between the division of housework and relationship satisfaction, in various life stages, social classes, and regions? Chapter 7 examines satisfaction as a function of the division of housework. Both genders report the highest satisfaction with the division of housework when the housework is divided equally, and the lowest when they themselves do most of this work. This pattern is more pronounced for women than men. Yet, the majority is satisfied with the division: 95 percent of women and men are satisfied when there is an equal division, 60 percent of women are satisfied when they do almost all of the housework, and 84 percent of men are satisfied when they do the most. Women also report somewhat less relationship satisfaction when they do all or almost all of the housework: 76 percent are satisfied when they do (almost) all, 89 percent when they share. Men’s relationship satisfaction is unaffected by the division of housework. The association between housework division and satisfaction with the division is stable across age-cohorts and life stages. Children make a difference, however. Both genders are more dissatisfied with doing the lion’s share at home if they have resident children. Working full-time also makes a difference. Both genders are especially dissatisfied with doing most of the housework if they work full-time. Relationships between housework division and satisfaction are relatively stable across socioeconomic status (education, income, and occupational status) and regional characteristics (level of urbanity, region, and municipal score on the gender equality index created by Statistics Norway).  

Chapter 8: What is the relationship between the division of childcare and relationship satisfaction, across social classes and regional characteristics? Chapter 8 explores the effect of division of childcare on relationship satisfaction and satisfaction with the division of childcare. The highest satisfaction is reported by those with an egalitarian division of childcare. Women especially, but also men, are the least satisfied when the woman does the lion’s share of the childcare. 95 percent of men and women are satisfied with the division of childcare when these tasks are divided equally. In couples where the woman does all or almost all of the childcare, 84 percent of men and 56 percent of women are satisfied. When the man does the most, nearly 90 percent of both men and women are satisfied. The division has little (women) or no (men) impact on global relationship satisfaction. The relationship between the division of childcare and satisfaction with the division is unaffected by his or her employment status, work hours, and socioeconomic status, and is stable across regions and regional characteristics.  

Chapter 9: Does an egalitarian division of housework protect against relationship dissolution? In this chapter we ask whether an egalitarian division of housework promotes marital stability. Analysis of LOGG data and subsequent registry data on divorce shows no association between a traditional division of labor, i.e., that the woman does most of the work, and a lower risk of divorce. On the contrary, the risk of divorce (over a period of 4 years) is higher when he does as much or more housework than her, compared to when she does most of the housework. These effects are statistically significant, also after control of relevant factors. We discuss possible reasons for the greater risk of divorce in untraditional couples. Differences in values and attitudes are a likely cause: in traditional couples where she does most of the housework, both partners may tend to hold a high value of marriage and a more traditional attitude towards divorce. Untraditional couples, where he does the most of the housework, may hold a less traditional or more modern view about marriage, whereby marital dissatisfaction more easily leads to marital break-up. If so, the division of housework is no "cause" of later divorce.

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