Volume 37 - Article 62 | Pages 1949–1974  

Gendered division of domestic work and willingness to have more children in China

By Juhua Yang

This article is part of the Special Collection 25 "Domestic division of labour and fertility choice in East Asia"


Background: Fertility research in the new century has shifted from how gender equality may suppress fertility to issues of how gender equality in the family may help recover fertility, as low fertility persists among developed countries. In contrast with much of the work in the developed world, little research has been done on China, an East Asian society characterized by extremely low fertility.

Objective: This paper analyzes the link between gender equality at home and fertility among respondents aged 20–40.

Methods: This study uses multiple waves of data from the China Health and Nutrition Survey to address the issue. In this project, we will measure fertility as wanting to have another child. First, we will provide a basic description of fertility intentions and couples’ involvement in domestic work. Then we will use binary logistic models to gauge the link between the extent of equality of engagement in domestic work in a family and their willingness to have another child.

Results: While there is a positive correlation, a husband’s time spent on domestic work is insignificantly connected to fertility desire, all else being equal. A wife’s domestic work is inversely and significantly associated with the desire to have another child only when the child’s sex is not considered. Biological and cultural factors (e.g., age and the sex composition of existing children) are strong predictors of wanting another child.

Contribution: More research is needed to establish an association between gender relations and childbirth in unique cultural and socioeconomic contexts. In China, there is still a restriction on the number of children due to the country’s universal two-child policy, but there has been a resurgence of some traditional gender norms in the process of rapid-pace marketization. This implies more severe discrimination against mothers in the labor market, especially those with more than one child.

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