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

Article in a refereed journal

François Cochard, Hélène Couprie and Astrid Hopfensitz, "What if women earned more than their spouses? An experimental investigation of work division in couples", Experimental Economics, Springer Netherlands, 2017.[ Forthcoming ]

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: Design of Experiments: Other
D13: Household Production and Intrahousehold Allocation
J16: Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

IAST Discipline

Psychology
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