Letizia Mencarini

Letizia Mencarini

THE GENDER OF GENDER EQUALITY: IMPLICATIONS FOR FERTILITY  
Letizia Mencarini with Samuel Plach, Arnstein Aassve, Mary C. Brinton


Gender equality represents the balance between men’s and women’s respective roles in the private and public spheres. A higher degree of gender equality, i.e. more similar gender roles, can be accomplished either through women adopting behaviors more consistent with men’s conventional role (approaching “masculine gender equality”) or by men taking on behaviors that tend to be more characteristic of women (approaching “feminine gender equality”). We argue that the central significance of any degree of gender equality (including complete gender equality) for a country’s fertility rate depends on whether it is fundamentally masculine or feminine. When greater gender equality is achieved mainly through women’s adoption of masculine behaviors, such as increasing their hours of paid work, the resulting degree of gender equality will be ”masculine” and is likely to be detrimental to fertility. In contrast, gender-role change towards a more ”feminine” gender equality, generally achieved through men’s increased contribution to women’s traditional responsibilities in the household, positively influences fertility. Accordingly, even if complete gender equality is achieved in postindustrial societies, fertility levels would depend on the type of gender equality characterizing a given society. Given differences in social norms and institutions across countries, differences in the type of gender equality may persist, contributing to non-converging fertility levels across postindustrial societies.