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Fertility levels have fallen drastically in most industrialized countries. Diverse theoretical and empirical frameworks have had difficulty explaining these unprecedented low levels of fertility. More recently, however, attention has turned from classic explanations, such as women's increased labour market participation, to gender equity as the essential link to understand this phenomenon. Increases in women's labour market participation did not prompt a rise in men's domestic duties, often referred to as women's 'dual burden' or 'second shift'. Beyond the household, institutions and policies within countries facilitate or constrain the combination of women's employment with fertility. This paper provides an empirical test of gender equity theory by examining whether the unequal division of household labour leads to lower fertility intentions of women within different institutional contexts. Italy constitutes a case of low gender equity, low female labour market participation and the lowest-low fertility. The Netherlands has moderate to high gender equity, high part-time female labour market participation and comparatively higher fertility. Using data from the 2003 Italian Multipurpose Survey - Family and Social Actors and the Dutch sample from the 2004/5 European Social Survey, a series of logistic regression models test this theory. A central finding is that an unequal division of household labour only significantly impacts women's fertility intentions when they already bear a heavy load (more work hours, children), a finding that is particularly salient for working women in Italy. © 2008 Mills et al.

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Journal article


Demographic Research

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