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Dual income couples less likely to have more than one child - finds LSE research

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Families with a traditional male breadwinner and a female full time carer are almost 50 per cent more likely to have a second child than couples with a full time male worker and a female partner who works full time or part time. That is one of the findings of new research by Pia Schober| a research student in the Department of Social Policy| at LSE.

The study, Family Work and Selection into Parenthood among British Couples, was presented at the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) conference on Thursday 5 July.

The study explores the potential causes of this low fertility among dual-earner couples, using BHPS data, which tracks the same households over time. The main findings are that:

  • Traditional male breadwinner/female full time carer families are almost 50 per cent more likely to have a second child than dual-earner couples
  • If husbands contribute more than one third to housework, this raises the probability of first-time parenthood by 79 per cent for wives who work more than 45 hours per week in their jobs
  • If husbands contribute more than one third to housework, this also raises the likelihood of a second birth by 30 per cent for a large group of women who hold moderately egalitarian gender attitudes
  • Shared childcare responsibility between husbands and wives increases the probability of a second birth by 50 per cent for women with a relatively large workload of more than 45 hours a week on both paid and domestic work.

Having a child usually changes women's lives more than men's, since mothers reduce their hours in paid work and as a result their long term earnings and career opportunities much more than fathers. Alternatively, a growing number of women in dual earner couples put up with the double burden of working full time and doing most of the caring, either motivated by career aspirations or economic need.

Among dual earner couples those with full time employed mothers and young children bear the largest overall work burden, and due to persisting gender inequalities in domestic work more of that workload falls on mothers than fathers. The research explores whether this reduces the likelihood of having children for some women and to what extent is it due to perceived inequality or overload.

Britain like many modern welfare states faces the challenge of developing new gender and family arrangements. This is crucial to avoiding low fertility especially among highly educated women, while ensuring the high female labour market participation required for welfare state sustainability. The findings of this study have important implications for current government policy including:

  • Considerable diversity in British couples characteristics in terms of which arrangements constrain or facilitate childbearing for them. This suggests the need for policies that allow traditional choices as well as modern alternatives of how families can combine earning and caring
  • In many families both partners need or want to work. As this is increasingly seen as insurance in the case of relationship breakdown, more widespread and affordable day care provision is one means to reduce mothers workload
  • Since men's contributions seem to make a difference for first and second births among certain groups of dual-earner couples, enabling fathers also to make use of family friendly arrangements in order to share more of the domestic work and care would reduce inequality and lift part of the pressure off their wives
  • To create a context in which women and men can genuinely choose from a wider range of options of combining paid and family work, such policies are especially important to make family models that deviate from the current norm possible at all.

Click here to download the full report| (PDF)

Ends

Notes for editors:

Family Work and Selection into Parenthood among British Couples by Pia Schober was presented at the British Household Panel Survey 2007 conference at the Institute for Social and Economic Research| (ISER), Essex.

Pia Schober is at the Department of Social Policy, London School of Economics.

ISER has been conducting the BHPS since 1991, collecting and analysing data on a representative sample of 5,500 households comprising more than 10,000 individuals, who are interviewed every year; and making this data - the most heavily used non-commercial social science data set in the UK - accessible to academics, policy-makers, businesses and the public sector. The BHPS is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

For further information contact Pia Schober by emailing p.s.schober@lse.ac.uk| or Romesh Vaitilingam on 077 6866 1095  romesh@compuserve.com|

6 July 2007

Press cuttings

Raising Kids
Helping husbands have more kids (13 July)
Women whose husbands help out around the house are more likely to consider having more children than those with housework-shy partners. A survey by Pia Schober at the London School of Economics found that where both husband and wife work, the amount of help the husband gives has a direct effect on how many children they go on to have.

Sunday Times
Housework for boys (8 July)
We also heard in the same report, entitled Family Work and Selection into Parenthood among British Couples by Pia Schober, presented at the British Household Panel Survey 2007 conference, that the new man is uncommon. 

Australian Associated Press
Housework husbands improve chances of becoming a dad (8 July)
Source: Lexis Nexis News

Courier Mail, Australia
The helpful guy gets the offspring (9 July)
Working women with husbands who help around the home are more likely to agree to have children. The findings, from a study by LSE research student Pia Schober, found that couples with a traditional male breadwinner and stay-at-home mum were 50 per cent more likely to have a second child than double-income couples.
Source: Lexis Nexis News

Sunday Times
Housework for boys (8 July)
We also heard in the same report, entitled Family Work and Selection into Parenthood among British Couples by Pia Schober, presented at the British Household Panel Survey 2007 conference, that the new man is uncommon.

Australian Associated Press
Housework husbands improve chances of becoming a dad
In her study, London School of Economics research student Pia Schober found that couples with a traditional male breadwinner and stay-at-home mum were 50 per cent more likely to have a second child than dual-income couples.
(Source: Lexis Nexis News)

Daily India.com
A husband's help in housework raises his wife's chances of giving birth (6 July)
Women who are helped by their husbands in the completion of household chores are more likely to have children, according to a survey conducted in the UK.

Daily Telegraph (6 July)
No more children, mothers tell lazy partners
Working mothers who 'do it all' are rebelling against having more than one child unless their husbands roll up their sleeves at home, it was claimed yesterday. The study of 2,000 couples, which draws on data from the British Household Panel Survey, was collated by Pia Schober of the Department of Social Policy at the London School of Economics and presented yesterday at the BHPS conference in Essex.

Evening Standard
How a spot of dusting could help you become a dad
Pia Schober, of the London School of Economics, said: 'Britain faces the challenge of developing new family arrangements. This is crucial to avoiding low fertility especially among highly-educated women, while ensuring the high female labour market participation required for welfare state sustainability. 'There is a need for policies that allow traditional choices as well as modern alternatives to how families can combine earning and caring.'

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