Gender Role Identity, Breadwinner Status and Psychological Well-being in the Household

Heather Brown, Jennifer Roberts


It is only recently that the psychological concept of identity has entered economic discourse. This paper is concerned with an important aspect of social identity - gender roles within couples. We explore the extent to which compliance with this identity influences individual utility. We consider gender roles and attitudes in a sample from the British Household Panel Survey, within a framework that controls for individual heterogeneity. Our work offers some support for the identity model. Women in 'traditional' marriages who accept this role have improved well-being. In couples with 'modern' views, women who earn more than their husbands and still have to do most of the domestic work, have lower well-being; this persists if they work part-time and if they report no time pressures. Men who hold traditional views have lower well-being if their wives work; and men who hold modern views on gender roles only have higher well-being if their wives are the higher earner but only work part-time. Our results have implications for the validity of traditional household bargaining models which are largely gender neutral.