Institute of Sociology

Family policy information, gender ideologies and normative judgements of the gender division of labour

This project investigates how information about parental leave and childcare policies and about consequences of take-up affect normative judgements about parents’ employment, take-up of leave, and formal childcare among different socio-economic groups. Since the mid-2000s, Germany introduced several parental leave and childcare reforms aimed inter alia at speeding up maternal labour market return, increasing paternal childcare involvement and reducing social inequalities in take-up of formal childcare. Maternal employment and take-up of leave by fathers and of formal childcare have risen; yet, they remain socially stratified. This might be due to socially stratified diffusion of varying work-care cultures. The project extends recent studies, which found that family policies may impact individual actions and beliefs not only by altering economic incentives but also by shaping work-care ideals and norms also in the short-term and for social groups not directly affected by the policies. Possible channels of such normative change is new information provided by media reports, public policy campaigns or social networks. This project explores whether increasing policy visibility through short evidence-based information about existing policy entitlements and consequences of take-up may alter normative judgements about the gender division of labour and childcare. In particular, the project will examine how the effects of information vary across social groups.

Our theoretical framework integrates the concepts of gender consciousness and normative policy feedback effects with the social-psychological elaboration likelihood model and social norm theory. For the empirical examination, we have developed two different survey experiments. These have been accepted by two large German Panel Surveys, the GESIS Panel and the German Family Panel (Pairfam), and will be implemented between August 2019 and April 2020. The project’s contribution will be threefold: First, it will shed light on one likely mechanism as to how policies may influence social norms and beliefs. Second, by considering differential effects across social groups that vary in policy proximity, we will be able to gain a better understanding of how policy-related information diffuses across different population groups. Third, by combining information experiments with vignette designs, the project will identify couple and context characteristics for which social norms may be more flexible and susceptible to new information as opposed to situations for which normative judgements are rather inflexible.

Key words: Family policy, parental leave, childcare, employment, social norms, gender ideologies, gender beliefs, information, parenthood