Political regimes and the family: how sex-role attitudes continue to differ in reunified Germany

Abstract

We exploit the German separation and later reunification to investigate whether political regimes can shape attitudes about appropriate roles for women in the family and the labor market. During the divided years, East German institutions encouraged female employment, while the West German system deterred women, in particular mothers, from full-time employment. Our results show that East Germans are significantly more likely to hold egalitarian sex-role attitudes than West Germans. Despite a scenario of partial policy convergence after reunification, we find no evidence for a convergence process in gender attitudes. Indeed, if anything, the gap in attitudes rather increased.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    The ALLBUS program was financially supported by the German Research Foundation from 1980 to 1986 and in 1991. Further surveys were financed on a national and federal state (Laender) level via the Gesellschaft Sozialwissenschaftlicher Infrastruktureinrichtungen network.

  2. 2.

    Terwey and Baltzer (2009) provide detailed information on the ALLBUS in general and present all variables available in the cumulated data set from 1980 until 2008.

  3. 3.

    In additional estimations, we drop the “rather agree” and “rather disagree” categories and only use information of those individuals showing strong agreement or strong disagreement. The coefficients of the East dummy now become even larger for five out of our six outcome variables. The results of this robustness check are available from the authors upon request.

  4. 4.

    In controlling for education, we eliminate any indirect effects that political regimes may have on gender role attitudes through the education channel. Regimes that promote a male breadwinner model are less likely to induce female human capital investments than regimes which encourage female employment.

  5. 5.

    Also for the subsample of individuals born before 1975, we cannot find evidence for the hypothesis that the availability of West German TV in East Germany before Reunification mattered as far as our outcome variables are concerned. However, more detailed data on the availability of West German TV in the regions of the former GDR might well be able to detect impacts.

  6. 6.

    Since this mobility information is not available for 1996 and 2008, we drop all observations from those years.

  7. 7.

    Theoretically, the effect of high regional unemployment on gender-role attitudes is ambiguous. On the one hand, high regional unemployment rates might discourage women from joining the labor force and rather render them housewives, which could in turn lead to more traditional family values. On the other hand, if high regional unemployment endangers the job of the husband, a wife might just as well join the labor force and search for a job herself in order to minimize the negative effects for the family arising from her husband getting unemployed (see, e.g., Kohara 2010). Last but not least, causality might also run from sex-role attitudes to unemployment. If people hold the view that a working mother is not harmful to children or the family, women might look for jobs on the labor market, which in turn increases the labor force and ceteris paribus the unemployment rate.

  8. 8.

    This question was only asked in the 1991, 2000, and 2008 surveys.

  9. 9.

    The results from these additional regressions are available from the authors upon request.

  10. 10.

    In West Germany, there have been lively discussions for years about increasing child care resources and thus allowing women to combine both having a family and a career. However, the child care system in today’s West Germany is still far from being elaborated.

References

  1. Alesina A, Fuchs-Schündeln N (2007) Good-bye Lenin (or not?): the effect of communism on people’s preferences. Am Econ Rev 97(4):1507–1528

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Bauernschuster S, Falck O, Gold R, Heblich S (2009) The shadows of the past: implicit institutions and entrepreneurship. Mimeo

  3. Becker SO, Wössmann L (2009) Was Weber wrong? A human capital theory of protestant economic history. Q J Econ 124(2):531–596

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Engelhardt H, Trappe H, Dronkers J (2002) Differences in family policy and the intergenerational transmission of divorce: a comparison between the former East and West Germany. Demogr Res 6(1):295–324

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Fernandez R, Fogli A (2009) Culture: an empirical investigation of beliefs, work, and fertility. American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics 1(1):146–177

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Fernandez R, Fogli A, Olivetti C (2004) Mothers and sons: preference formation and female force dynamics. Q J Econ 119(4):1249–1299

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Fortin NM (2005) Gender role attitudes and the labour-market outcomes of women across OECD countries. Oxf Rev Econ Policy 21(3):416–438

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Huinink J, Solga H (2007) Occupational opportunities in the GDR: a privilege of the older generations. Z Soziol 23(3):237–253

    Google Scholar 

  9. Kawaguchi D, Miyazaki J (2009) Working mothers and sons’ preferences regarding female labor supply: direct evidence from stated preferences. J Popul Econ 22(1):115–130

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Kohara M (2010) The response of Japanese wives’ labor supply to husbands’ job loss. J Popul Econ 23(4):1133–1149

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Rainer H, Siedler T (2009) Does democracy foster trust? J Comp Econ 37(2):251–269

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Rosenfeld RA, Trappe H, Gornick JC (2004) Gender and work in Germany: before and after reunification. Annu Rev Sociology 30:103–124

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Schäfgen K (1998) Die verdoppelung der ungleichheit. Sozialstruktur und geschlechterverhältnisse in der bundesrepublik und in der DDR. Ph.D. dissertation, Humboldt-Universität

  14. Statistisches Reichsamt (1936) Statistisches jahrbuch für das deutsche reich. Available online: http://www.digizeitschriften.de/main=/dms/img/?PPN=PPN514401303_1935

  15. Terwey M, Baltzer S (2009) Datenhandbuch ALLBUS 1980–2008. GESIS, Cologne Mannheim

    Google Scholar 

  16. Thornton A, Alwin DF, Camburn D (1983) Causes and consequences of sex-role attitudes and attitude change. Am Sociol Rev 48(2):211–227

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Trappe H (1996) Work and family in women’s lives in the German Democratic Republic. Work Occup 23(4):354–377

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We are indebted to the responsible editor, Junsen Zhang, and two anonymous referees for helpful comments and suggestions.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Helmut Rainer.

Additional information

Responsible editor: Junsen Zhang

Appendix

Appendix

Table 10 Summary statistics

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Bauernschuster, S., Rainer, H. Political regimes and the family: how sex-role attitudes continue to differ in reunified Germany. J Popul Econ 25, 5–27 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00148-011-0370-z

Download citation

Keywords

  • Political regimes
  • Gender-role attitudes
  • German reunification

JEL Classification

  • J13
  • J16