Who earns more? Influences on income distribution in couples - A European comparison
Institute of Empirical and Applied Sociology University Bremen Bremen, Germany
Female labor force participation, in general, and labor force participation of mothers, in particular, have increased remarkably over the last decades especially in industrialized countries. A number of factors that interact with each other are usually held responsible for this development, e.g., an increasing importance of education, a shift of values, changes in labor markets and welfare state regulations, an increasing variety of living arrangements. Despite this general development, percentages of employed women and employed mothers, attitudes toward female employment as well as gender wage gaps differ sizably between countries.
Utilizing a multi-level analytic approach, the study analyzes reasons for variations in relative earnings of 20- to 65-year old women in comparison to their spouses in 19 EU countries, surveyed in the International Social Survey Program 2002. On the individual level, age, educational attainment, having a child, occupational characteristics as well as gender role attitudes were used as predictors, whereas on the country level, masculinity scores from the Hofstede data base, the Gender Empowerment Measure as well as policy regimes indicators were included.
It emerged that women with a higher education as well as those who are professionals had a higher propensity to have an income higher than their spouses. It seems furthermore important whether a women works as long as her children are under school age: Those women are more prone to reach a higher relative income. Having a child and a spouse who is himself a professional on the other hand had a traditionalizing effect for the income distribution in a partnership. Support of traditional gender roles is above average in families where men are the main breadwinner. On the country level policy regimes seem to be important for the income distribution in a household whereas structural gender equality as well as cultural gender equality do not seem to have a tremendous influence. Moreover, several cross-level interactions were found: among others the influence of motherhood on gendered family income is weakened by country-level gender equality.