Article

What if women earned more than their spouses? An experimental investigation of work division in couples

François Cochard, Hélène Couprie, and Astrid Hopfensitz

Abstract

Female specialization on household work and male specialization on labor-market work is a widely observed phenomenon across time and countries. This absence of gender neutrality with respect to work-division is known as the “work-division puzzle”. Gender differences regarding characteristics (preferences, productivity) and context (wage rates, social norms) are generally recognized as competing explanations for this fact. We experimentally control for context and productivity to investigate preferences for work-division by true co-habiting couples, in a newly developed specialization task. Efficiency in this task comes at the cost of inequality, giving higher earnings to the “advantaged” player. We compare behavior when men (or women) are in the advantaged position, which corresponds to the traditional (or power) couple case where he (or she) earns more. We show that women do not contribute more than men to the household public good whatever the situation. This result allows us to rule out some of the standard explanations of the work-division puzzle.

Keywords

Experiment on couples; Time allocation; Work-division;

JEL codes

  • C99: Other
  • D13: Household Production and Intrahousehold Allocation
  • J16: Economics of Gender • Non-labor Discrimination

Replaces

François Cochard, Hélène Couprie, and Astrid Hopfensitz, What if women earned more than their spouses? An experimental investigation of work-division in couples, IAST working paper, n. 15-26, July 30, 2015, revised January 2017.

Published in

Experimental Economics, Springer Netherlands, 2018, forthcoming