Do fathers work less when mothers earn more?

Shireen Kanji, University of Cambridge

The hypothesis of this paper is that fathers’ hours of work are determined by their earnings relative to their partners’ and by their partners’ labour force participation, as well as by age and educational attainment. The fathers for whom this applies are those whose individual decisions in the labour market and those of their partners are interdependent (Blossfeld and Drobnic, 2001; Moen 2003). Findings from previous studies support theories that men work more to assert or reinforce their breadwinner role when they have children. Additionally, employers reward men with higher wage rates for having children because it is a signal of masculinity. Using panel data on fathers’ and mothers’ hours of work from the Millennium Cohort Survey in the UK, this paper employs a random effects tobit specification to model how fathers’ hours of work are affected by their earnings relative to their partners’. The subset of fathers examined is those who are co-resident with female partners and who have young children. The results show that fathers whose partners earn substantially more work considerably fewer hours than other fathers, controlling for age and educational attainment. Fathers who are approximately equal earners with their partner work fewer hours than other fathers, but more than fathers whose partners are the main earner. Because of the dramatic improvement in female educational attainment in the UK, which has been associated with higher rates of female labour force participation and earnings, more couples are likely to be in a situation of being equal earners as parents or where the mother is the main earner. This scenario carries important implications for how couples will jointly manage to combine paid and unpaid work in the UK in future. The effect of fatherhood on men’s labour market decisions will increasingly depend on the nature of fathers’ relationships with mothers.

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Presented in Session 17: Time allocation between spouses

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