Gender Norms And The Gendered Distribution Of Total Work In Latin American Households Feminist Economics

Feminist Economics

Juan Carlos Campaña, Jose Ignacio Giménez-Nadal, and José Alberto Molina

An increasing number of countries are carrying out time-use surveys, and a commonality found when using these surveys, independent of country characteristics, is that women in general devote relatively more time to unpaid domestic work than men. Furthermore, the total time worked by women always exceeds that worked by men. One thing that stands out in existing studies is that the total time devoted by both men and women to paid and unpaid work varies considerably across countries, and a possible factor encouraging an inegalitarian distribution of time between men and women in terms of total work is that of gender norms. In this context, Juan Carlos Campaña, Jose Ignacio Giménez-Nadal, and José Alberto Molina create a gender norms index aimed at measuring cross-country differences in gender norms and analyzing whether the gender gap, unfavorable to women, is explained by substantive country differences and, specifically, differences in gendered social norms.

Methodology. Campaña, Giménez-Nadal, and Molina analyze time-use data from Mexico (2009), Peru (2010), and Ecuador (2012) to explore the variation in the total time worked by women and men in those countries. The authors use five questions from the last wave of the World Values Survey (WVS; 2010–2014) to create a gender norms index. The authors estimate Ordinary Least Square (OLS) models on the time men and women devoted to total work, which is defined as the sum of the time devoted to paid work, unpaid (domestic) work, childcare, and other care. Sociodemographic characteristics – such as the respondent’s age, education, and race – and country-varying factors – such as the GDP per capita growth rate and the fertility rate – are also included in the regressions.

Main findings. Campaña, Giménez-Nadal, and Molina find that when only the sociodemographic characteristics and country-varying factors are included in the model, women devote around 4 more hours per week to total work. But when the gender norms index is included in the model, the difference in the time devoted to total work between men and women is reduced by almost one-third, with women devoting 2.5 hours more hours per week to total work in comparison to men. Thus, cross-country differences as measured by the gender norms index help to explain the gender gap in total work. In countries with more egalitarian gender norms, men devote more time to total work, and thus the gender gap in total work is reduced. Regarding country-variant factors, Campaña, Giménez-Nadal, and Molina find that a higher GDP growth rate, women’s higher labor force participation rate, higher total fertility rate, and higher dependency ratio all have a positive relationship to the time devoted to total work. Higher masculinity ratios have a negative relationship to the time devoted to total work in the three countries.

Policy implications. Campaña, Giménez-Nadal, and Molina’s finding that, generally, women devote more time to total work than men in these countries may indicate that women have a lower level of well-being, particularly when both members of the couple are in the labor market. Family policies that challenge the existing gender structure, such as paternity leave, may constitute a good starting point for successfully shifting the household division of labor in a more egalitarian direction. Other strategies that can be used to foster a more egalitarian distribution of care activities include the implementation of public care centers, cash payments, and tax benefits and pensions.

Campaña, Giménez-Nadal, and Molina’s results suggest that traditional social norms may not limit women’s economic equality in all realms equally, but these may be particularly persistent in the case of unpaid domestic work and childcare. Furthermore, their results raise questions about the relationship between more egalitarian social norms and the persistence of intimate partner violence (IPV) against women.

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