The Family Kaleidoscope
Edited by Dimitri Mortelmans, Koenraad Matthijs, Elisabeth Alofs and Barbara Segaert
Chapter 3: Gender inequality in the division of housework over the life course: a European comparative perspective
Over the last 50 years the gendered division of paid work in European households has become more equal. This evolution only partly entailed a more equal distribution of unpaid work. This chapter aims to examine how gender inequality in the division of housework varies across different stages of the life course and across different cultural and institutional contexts. Using data from the fifth round (2010) of the European Social Survey a sample of 24 045 heterosexual couples from 24 different countries was selected. Using multilevel models the authors examined how the distribution of domestic work over the life course is affected by: (1) individual-level and household-level characteristics such as time availability, relative resources and gender ideology; (2) the cultural and institutional context; and (3) whether cross-level interactions play a role. Results show that a progressive gender ideology has a relatively small positive influence on gender equality for couples with young children. But this effect depends on the societal context as cross-level interactions suggest that parents succeed better in implementing their progressive ideas in a country with a progressive national gender culture and more full-time childcare. Hence, contextual variables play a role in reducing traditional gender roles following the birth of a child.
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