Gundula Zoch, Stefanie Heyne
The evolution of family policies and couples' housework division after childbirth in Germany, 1994–2019

Journal of Marriage and Family, 2023: 85, issue 5, pp. 1067-1086
ISSN: 0022-2445 (print), 1741-3737 (online)

Objective:We examine how the re-traditionalization effectof childbirth on couples’division of housework has evolvedover time as a result of major family policy change.Background:Supportive family policies are associated witha more egalitarian division of labor. However, it remainsunclear how a country’s transition from a modernizedmale breadwinner regime that supports maternal care tofamily policies that promote maternal employment andpaternal caregiving change couples’gender-typical divisionof housework in the long run.

Method:We use representative survey data from theGerman Socio-Economic Panel (1994–2019,N=14,648)and estimate the re-traditionalization effect of childbirthon mothers’absolute and relative time-use on houseworkover four policy periods with linear fixed-effects regressionmodels.

Results:Across all periods, mothers took on larger abso-lute and relative levels of housework after childbirth, witha more pronounced and persistent gender-typical divisionin West than in East Germany. However, mothers spentsomewhat less absolute and relative time on housework inrecent periods with stronger levels of de-familiarizing anddual-earner/dual-carer policies than in earlier periods withpolicies supporting maternal caregiving.

Conclusion:We find somewhat smaller and less persistentre-traditionalization effects of childbirth in more support-ive work–family policy periods. In sum, the small changesillustrate that even in contexts of enormous policy change,progress toward a less gender-typical division of house-work has been slow and rather small.