Wage earners, homemakers & gender identity—Using an artefactual field experiment to understand couples’ labour division choices
Why do only few couples choose the female spouse as main provider of labour income? To assess potential explanations, I develop a collective household produc- tion model with identity that illuminates different channels through which gender norms can affect household specialisation decisions. To test the predictions of the model regarding identity, I study the specialisation choices of 246 subjects, real heterosexual couples, in the lab. Women are less likely to become breadwinners than men, but this is mainly driven by gender differences in productivity. While I find little evidence that, conditional on productivity, gender identity affects labour division choices, men’s performance in the market task suggests identity concerns may affect gender differences in labour supply at the intensive margin: When their partner was previously more productive, i.e., the threat of being out-earned by her is high, men exert significantly more effort. The experimental design further allows me to shed light on two additional factors that amplify the underrepresentation of women among breadwinners: men’s overconfidence and women’s reluctance to assume sole responsibility for household income.