The “Fertility Gap” and Female Domestic Burden

Alyce Raybould , University College London
Rebecca Sear, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)

The existence of a “fertility gap” between stated ideal and actual childbearing in nearly all high-income, low-fertility settings suggests there are impediments to women achieving their childbearing goals. One explanation for this could be female domestic burden, when women are expected to perform both paid and unpaid labour responsibilities without additional support, making continued childbearing untenable. Our study explores this “fertility gap” in the USA, a surprisingly understudied country in the literature of gender equality and childbearing. We use the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which follows a cohort aged 18-24 in 1979, with waves every two years. Using multinomial logistic regressions, we investigate the probability of realising intentions for a second child. Although age, partnership status and education were predictive of realising intentions, we did not find an association between frequency of arguments about domestic duties, gender role attitudes and our outcome groups. We also investigate whether ideals for 2 children (the norm mean ideal family size in the US) become sacrificed after the birth of the first child, when domestic burden typically increases and becomes more gendered. Using linear growth curve models, we identify a steep drop in fertility ideals during the years surrounding the birth of the first child, from 2.1 to 1.4. In order to include a better indicator in this analysis of female domestic burden, this ongoing work will add detailed time-use data to both models, imputed by Propensity Score Matching from the American Time Use Survey.

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 Presented in Session 120. Gender Equality and Fertility