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Fulfilled Expectations, More Children

Egalitarian couples are more likely to have a second child
Copyright: Halfpoint

Diverging expectations about how to divide household tasks between partners can influence the choice to have another child. For example, if a wife expects an egalitarian division of household labour and her husband does not fulfil his equal share of housework, this might influence the relationship in a way that negatively affects the decision to have another child.

In their cross-country comparison, Arnstein Aassve, Giulia Fuochi, Letizia Mencarini, and Daria Mendola found that the match between attitudes, beliefs, and the actual distribution of household work in a relationship is crucial for childbearing decisions: Egalitarian couples whose attitudes and beliefs regarding family roles correspond to a gender equal housework sharing are more likely to decide to have a second child.

In Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, and Lithuania, women are responsible for the majority of housework, even if they believe that household labour should be equally divided between men and women. Aassve et al. also identify some inconsistencies between the actual contributions of men to household work and their professed egalitarian attitudes.

In the majority of countries considered, there is consistency between the actual sharing of duties and the attitudes and beliefs about the way in which household labour should be divided. In most couples, women do almost all of the housework and both men and women report having unequal attitudes towards gender (Figure 1, Consistent Inequality). France presents the largest share of consistent equality in couples, where both the attitudes and the division of housework are gender equal. On the contrary, in Hungary, the majority of couples can be classified as consistently unequal: A situation in which women do almost all of the housework and partners report having unequal gender attitudes (Figure 1).

What are the effects of the levels of gender equality described above on childbearing? Women are more likely to have a second child if their expectations regarding an equal division of housework are actually fulfilled. Aassve et al. suggest that couples consider having another child if they share domestic tasks equally, so policies intended to increase fertility levels should improve and further support gender equality within couples.


Figure 1. Percentage distribution of couple types. Countries: Hungary, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Lithuania, and France.
Consistent inequality = gender-unequal division of housework, gender-unequal attitudes.
Inconsistency 1 = gender-unequal division of housework, gender-equal attitudes.
Inconsistency 2 = gender-equal division of housework, gender-unequal attitudes.
Consistent equality = gender-equal division of housework, gender-equal attitudes.


This Population Digest has been published with financial support from the Progress Programme of the European Union in the framework of the project “Supporting a Partnership for Enhancing Europe’s Capacity to Tackle Demo­graphic and Societal Change”.

Author(s) of the original publication: 
Thais Garcia Pereiro