Total Work, Gender and Social Norms

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IZA Seminar

Place: Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 9, 53113 Bonn

Date: 05.11.2008, 12:15 - 13:30


Presentation by 

Michael C. Burda (Humboldt University Berlin)


Using time-diary data from 27 countries, we demonstrate a negative relationship between realGDP per capita and the female-male difference in total work time-the sum of work for pay andwork at home. In rich non-Catholic countries on four continents, including the United States,there is no difference-men and women do the same amount of total work on average. This latterfact has been presented before by several sociologists for a few rich countries; but our surveyresults show that labor economists, macroeconomists, sociologists and the general publicconsistently believe that women perform more total work. The facts do not arise from genderdifferences in the price of time, nor from differences in intra-family bargaining, as genderequality is not associated with marital status and most of the variance in gender total workdifferences arises from within-couple differences. A theory of social norms could account forwithin-education group and within-region gender differences being smaller than inter-groupdifferences. It is consistent with cross-national evidence using the World Values Surveys thatfemale total work is relatively greater than menís where people believe that scarce jobs should beoffered to men first. It comports with micro evidence from Australian and German couples thatgroup averages, and even lagged group averages, affect individual wivesí total work timeconditional on their husbandsí.

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