The Male Care Penalty: Unpacking the Mechanisms that Reproduce the Gender Gap in Care Work
2018 Dissertation Fellowship
In the past fifty years, women’s lifestyles and behaviors have changed at a significantly faster pace than men’s. This asymmetric change is particularly evident in the realm of care work, where women continue to perform the lion's share labor, both within their own families and as paid employees. The scarcity of men acting as primary caregivers crosses many domains; single and stay-at-home fathers remain rare, and male babysitters, rarer yet. This dissertation identifies individual, normative, and institutional factors which limit men’s participation in the realm of childcare. Using data from a series of online survey experiments, I show that perceptions of men as insufficient and inherently inferior caregivers may act as barriers to men’s increased involvement in the lives of children. In a series of three studies, I identify a variety of ways that essentialist beliefs and normative expectations actively reproduce the uneven division of childcare in both paid and unpaid care settings. Overall, I argue that thoroughly addressing gender inequality must involve acknowledging that domestic and labor-force activities are two sides of the same coin; increasing women’s earnings is dependent on our ability to more evenly balance out the gender division of caregiving.
Where Are the Men in Childcare? Gender Essentialism, Care Work, and the Stalled Gender Revolution
2016–17 Survey Lab Project
Men’s participation in paid and unpaid childcare lags significantly behind that of women. Less than 5% of paid childcare workers are men and fathers spend half as much time on childcare duties as mothers (CPS 2015; Bianchi et al. 2006). Understanding why this gap exists is vital to addressing other inequalities rooted in the unequal division of care work, such as the motherhood wage penalty (Correll et al. 2007) as well as the care work wage penalty (England et al. 2002). Men’s unequal representation in childcare is the result of both supply and demand side processes. In this project, I examine the gender gap from both of these angles. First, I examine the demand for male childcare workers by testing whether or not male workers face a hiring bias within the childcare industry. Second, I analyze the supply of male childcare workers by comparing men and women’s preferences for childcare work relative to other jobs with comparable pay and hours. Taken together, findings from each of these two studies are meant to shed light on why the gender gap in childcare exists as well as potential approaches to reducing this gap.