What if women earned more than their spouses? An experimental investigation of work-division in couples

  • François Cochard
  • Hélène Couprie
  • Astrid Hopfensitz
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10683-017-9524-5

Cite this article as:
Cochard, F., Couprie, H. & Hopfensitz, A. Exp Econ (2017). doi:10.1007/s10683-017-9524-5


Female specialization on household work and male specialization on labor-market work is a widely observed phenomenon across time and countries. This absence of gender neutrality with respect to work-division is known as the “work-division puzzle”. Gender differences regarding characteristics (preferences, productivity) and context (wage rates, social norms) are generally recognized as competing explanations for this fact. We experimentally control for context and productivity to investigate preferences for work-division by true co-habiting couples, in a newly developed specialization task. Efficiency in this task comes at the cost of inequality, giving higher earnings to the “advantaged” player. We compare behavior when men (or women) are in the advantaged position, which corresponds to the traditional (or power) couple case where he (or she) earns more. Women and men contribute equally to the household public good in all conditions. This result allows us to rule out some of the standard explanations of the work-division puzzle.


Experiment on couples Time allocation Work-division 

JEL Classification

D13 C99 J16 

Supplementary material

10683_2017_9524_MOESM1_ESM.docx (398 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 398 kb)

Funding information

Funder NameGrant NumberFunding Note
Agence Nationale de la Recherche
  • ANR-08-FASHS-018
  • ANR-2010-JCJC-1803-01

Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CRESE EA3190Université Bourgogne Franche-ComtéBesançonFrance
  2. 2.Université de Cergy-Pontoise (THEMA)Cergy-PontoiseFrance
  3. 3.Toulouse School of EconomicsUniversity of Toulouse CapitoleToulouseFrance

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