The Effect of Societal Gender Equity on Ideal Number of Children: A Cross-National Comparison of 37 Nations

Kai Feng , University of Chicago

Prior studies find that gender inequity is associated with low fertility, but few of them have explored the interplay between individual determinants and societal gender role expectation in shaping fertility goals. Using data covering 37 countries, this paper tests the gender equity theory by examining how the division of household labor and gender attitudes affect women’s Ideal Number of Children(INC) within different cultural contexts. We find that the effects of housework sharing on INC and the perceived cost of having children are moderated by nation-level gender equity. The unequal share of housework reduces reported INC of women and increases their perceived costs of having children in nations with traditional gender role expectation, but such associations reverse in nations where public opinion supports more egalitarian gender roles. These findings reveal the importance of the societal gender equity on INC and help to explain the variation in fertility patterns across postindustrial societies.

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 Presented in Session 1. Fertility, Family Planning, Sexual Behavior, & Reproductive Health 1