What if Women Earned More Than Their Spouses? An Experimental Investigation of Work-Division in Couples

Speaker: Astrid Hopfensitz

Toulouse School of Economics

This event is part of the CESS Seminar series.

Female specialization on household work and male specialization on labor-market work is a widely observed phenomenon across time and countries. This absence of gender neutrality with respect to work-division is known as the ‘‘work-division puzzle’’. Gender differences regarding characteristics (preferences, productivity) and context (wage rates, social norms) are generally recognized as competing explanations for this fact. We experimentally control for context and productivity to investigate preferences for work-division by true co-habiting couples, in a newly developed specialization task. Efficiency in this task comes at the cost of inequality, giving higher earnings to the ‘‘advantaged’’ player. We compare behavior when men (or women) are in the advantaged position, which corresponds to the traditional (or power) couple case where he (or she) earns more. Women and men contribute equally to the household public good in all conditions. This result allows us to rule out some of the standard explanations of the work-division puzzle.