Upgrading Seminar: Domestic Division of Household Labour and the Fulfilment of Female Fertility Intentions

Speaker: Alyce Raybould

Supervisor: Rebecca Sear

Wednesday 13th June, 2pm

Room LG81, Keppel Street


Across nearly all high-income settings, the total fertility rate has dropped below the replacement level of 2.1, and in many below the sustainable level of 1.8. Sub-replacement fertility is a concern for governments, as it results in an ageing population that places social and economic strain on resources.

The desire to have children, however, does not follow this same downward trend. Over the last 50 years, a mean ideal family size of 2 has become increasingly common and time-persistent across high-income settings. This suggests that there are impediments to women achieving their childbearing goals, resulting in a “fertility gap” between ideal and actual family size.

Building upon evolutionary and psycho-social theories of fertility behaviour, this project focuses on one impediment consistently found to decrease childbearing intentions and outcomes: female domestic burden. This burden is created from the expectation that women will perform both paid and unpaid labour responsibilities without additional support, making continued childbearing untenable.

Using panel surveys from the USA (National Longitudinal Survey of Youth), the UK (Understanding Society) and Europe (Gender and Generations Programme), event history models and sequence analysis will be used to understand the relationship between household division of labour between couples, and their progression to births. The current literature focuses predominantly on testing the association between female household burden and birth intentions/outcomes. The novel aspect of this project is to examine the fulfilment of intentions for children among the same women over time, and thus refocus the literature towards a more comprehensive understanding of the “fertility gap”. The project will also include a qualitative study using forum data from ‘Mumsnet’ to better understand how women negotiate and achieve their ideal work-life balance.

Comments are closed.