Normative and allocation role strain: role incompatibility, outsourcing, and the transition to a second birth in Eastern and Western Germany
The challenges women face in reconciling their work and family responsibilities are at the heart of current explanations concerning the low fertility levels in developed countries. This study examines the role of the outsourcing of household labor and of childcare responsibilities in reducing the incompatibility of women’s roles and in increasing fertility in the two different institutional and normative contexts of Eastern and Western Germany. Using the German Socio-Economic Panel, we analyzed whether Eastern and Western German women who outsourced childcare responsibilities to formal and informal care providers in the first and in the third years after the first birth were at higher risk of having a second child. Drawing on Goode’s role strain theory, we suggest that the incompatibility of women’s roles is affected not only by allocation role strain, but also by normative role strain. Our results indicate that the outsourcing of childcare to formal providers and to grandparents reduces, rather than increases, the propensity to have a second child among Western German women, due to normative role strain. We also find a significant positive effect of the outsourcing of housework on the transition to a second birth in Germany, due to the decline in allocation role strain.
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