From Politics to the Family: How Sex-Role Attitudes Keep on Diverging in Reunified Germany
What is the role of politics in shaping attitudes about appropriate roles for women in the family and the compatibility of work and motherhood? In this paper we argue that the German separation and later reunification produced a natural experiment to address this question. During the divided years, East German institutions encouraged high levels of full-time employment for women, including mothers. The West German system by contrast deterred women in general, and mothers in particular, from full-time employment. After reunification, family-related policies largely converged in the two Germanies. Against this background, we empirically investigate gender-role attitudes in reunified Germany. Our results show that East Germans are significantly more likely to hold egalitarian or nontraditional sex-role attitudes than West Germans. Despite a scenario of partial policy convergence, we also find evidence that the gap between East and West German gender role attitudes more than doubled in the years after reunification. We suggest that one explanation for this divergence could be found in the notion of social identity.
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