Relative education and couples’ employment patterns

Andrea Buschner, State Institute for Family Research (ifb) at the University of Bamberg
Ursula Adam, State Institute for Family Research (ifb) at the University of Bamberg
Florian Schulz, State Institute for Family Research (ifb) at the University of Bamberg

Objectives. In our paper, we analyze the association between couples’ relative education and their respective working arrangements in Germany. Theoretically, we draw on two competing perspectives of the effects of education. On the one hand, education indicates one’s level of resources on the labor market and thus represents human capital. Following bargaining or dependence models, the partner with the higher educational attainment is expected to spend more time on the labor market than the partner with lower education. Couples with equal educational achievements are expected to share their weekly working hours equally. On the other hand, education represents the extent of approval to gender egalitarianism. Higher educational achievements correspond with higher consent to liberal attitudes as well as democratic and egalitarian values (van Berkel and De Graaf 1999). Thus, we hypothesize that higher educated couples show a higher propensity and potential of equality. Recent research has provided clues for the latter model in other spheres of daily life, questioning the symmetrical approach of the resource perspective. Method. We use data from the German Microcensus of 2011 to test both models for the case of couples’ employment patterns. Our population of interest contains approximately 60,000 heterosexual German couples (unweighted). We map couples’ total working hours and female partners’ share of couples’ total working hours for each educational constellation, controlling for the educational level of both partners. Results. First regression analyses yield evidence for both theoretical perspectives.The analyses indicate that homogamous couples on a high educational level are more likely to tend to an egalitarian division of paid work than homogamous couples with lower educational attainments. Additionally, the significance of woman's educational level for the working arrangement became evident. Conclusions. The paper concludes with discussing the results in the light of changing inequalities in society and sheds a light on possible policy.

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Presented in Session 73: Families and gender