Culture, Children and Couple Gender Inequality

54 Pages Posted: 10 May 2021

See all articles by Jonas Jessen

Jonas Jessen

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin); European University Viadrina

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 4, 2021


This paper examines how culture impacts within-couple gender inequality. I compare child penalties of couples socialised in a more gender-egalitarian culture to those in a gender-traditional culture exploiting the setting of Germany's division and reunification. The long-run penalty on the female income share is 29.9 percentage points in West German couples, compared to 19.9 in East German couples. I additionally show that the arrival of children leads to a stronger increase in the share of housework performed by women in West Germany and that West German mothers are responsible for a larger share of child care as those from the East. A specialisation index indicates that children only lead to a permanent (re-)traditionalisation in West German couples. A battery of robustness checks confirms that differences between East and West socialised couples are not driven by current location, economic factors, day care availability or other smooth regional gradients. The main findings are complemented with an analysis of time-use diary data from the GDR and reunified Germany comparing parents with childless couples. Lastly, I show that attitudes towards maternal employment are more egalitarian among East Germans, but that the arrival of children leads to more traditional attitudes for both East and West Germans.

Keywords: J16, J22, D1

JEL Classification: cultural norms, gender inequality, child penalty

Suggested Citation

Jessen, Jonas, Culture, Children and Couple Gender Inequality (May 4, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Jonas Jessen (Contact Author)

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) ( email )


European University Viadrina ( email )


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