The role of intergenerational transfers in gendered labour patterns

A.E. van Putten

Research output: PhD ThesisPhD thesis


This PhD study is framed against the backdrop of a persistent gendered labour pattern in the Netherlands. Given that the majority of Dutch women work less than three days per week whereas most men work full-time, the gender gap in work-hours in the Netherlands is larger than anywhere else in the developed world. Its flipside is that men carry out far less housework and kin-care than women. This gendered pattern in paid and unpaid labour leads to substantial gender inequalities in terms of income, and institutional, political, and corporate representation. Given women’s increased access to higher education, newly drawn legal barriers against sex-discrimination, and the decreased birth rate in the past decades, the adage of ‘education, occupation, and family-formation’ is insufficient to explain the persistence of gendered labour patterns. This is why the present study explores intergenerational transfers as a complementary explanation for gender differences in paid and unpaid labour to the conventionally studied individual, couple, and household characteristics. We address three kinds of intergenerational transfers: behavioural role modelling, resource transfers, and upward and downward transfers of instrumental support. Based on data of the nationally representative Netherlands Kinship Panel Study, the empirical findings of this study suggest that several intergenerational transfers indeed contribute to explain men’s and women’s labour patterns. Firstly, the findings suggest that men and women partly model their contributions to housework in adulthood upon their same-sex parent’s contributions to housework in childhood. The more fathers contributed to housework, the more sons contribute to housework today, and we find the same pattern among daughters and mothers. Secondly, the findings suggest that women who were raised by working mothers work more hours compared to women who were raised by homemaking mothers. We attribute this finding to the role model and the various resources that working mothers transfer. Thirdly, we find that mothers of young children participate more often on the labour market and work more hours when they receive help with routine housework from grandparents. Yet other intergenerational transfers of instrumental support appear to be unrelated to women’s and men’s labour patterns. We find no indication that practical help with childcare received from grandparents stimulates the labour force participation or increases the work-hours of parents of young children. Additionally, our results suggest that members of dual worker couples in midlife do not scale back their work-hours when they provide practical help to elderly parents, nor that they are less likely to provide such help the more hours they work. This study closes off with a discussion of its research contributions, policy implications, and suggestions for future research.
Original languageUndefined
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Dykstra, P.A., Promotor
  • Schippers, J., Promotor, External person
Award date26 Jun 2009
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
Print ISBNs978-90-6984-588-3
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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