The division of paid labour in same-sex couples in the Netherlands
Sociology Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Sociology Tilburg University Tilburg, The Netherlands
When it comes to the division of paid labour within couples, two theoretical perspectives dominate the field. One stresses the importance of gender roles in explaining the difference in working hours between men and women, the other explains differences in working hours with earning potential. Both predict men working full time, since they generally are older and higher educated than their female spouses, and their gender role is to provide. Research has almost exclusively focused on opposite-sex couples. We aim to test the limits of these two perspectives by testing them on same-sex couples. We consider "doing gender" for male same-sex couples to be both working full time, whereas for female same-sex partners, the gender expectation would be to work both part time. The economic perspective predicts for all couples that the highest educated partner will work the most. The Netherlands is exceptionally suited for studying the division of paid labour within same-sex couples. First, since its unusually tolerant stance towards same-sex relationships gay couples sharing households in the Netherlands are more easily accepted. Second because of its conservative morals concerning working women, Dutch women in opposite-sex couples still work far fewer hours than their male counterparts, as well as on average less than women in other European countries.
We merged 13 waves of the Dutch Labour Force Surveys to test our hypotheses on, and use information available on the position within household to identify same-sex couples. Only those households with exactly two members that are of the same sex and wherein both respondents indicate that they are one half of a couple are coded as same-sex couples. We analyze 1800 gay men and 1500 lesbians, and test whether they are "doing gender", or whether they divide working hours according to earning potential. Results show that gay men are indeed doing gender and work both full time in a majority of cases, whereas lesbians show a wide variety of working time allocations. For both same-sex couples we find that they are more likely to divide working hours equally, which is partly explained by more educational homogamy.