Skip to main content

The opportunity costs of childbearing: More than mothers’ business


This paper is an argument about gender relations. It takes the entwined themes of men‘s interests in parenthood, the sex division of labour and its evolution, policy for gender equity and policy to support the level of social reproduction. The emphasis on women‘s employment as a determinant of low fertility has to be supplemented by an examination of the assumption that only women‘s time use is affected by child-rearing. Many forces tend to concentrate fathers‘ involvement on breadwinning, but they are not immutable and are already changing. It should be in the interests of promoting social reproduction, as well as gender equity, for policy interventions to facilitate complementarities in parenting and in its combination with paid work. Descriptive evidence about the paid and unpaid work of couples and parents is presented, largely secondary material from the UK.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Additional information

Received: 13 June 1996 / Accepted: 27 June, 1997

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Joshi, H. The opportunity costs of childbearing: More than mothers’ business. J Popul Econ 11, 161–183 (1998).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

  • JEL classification: D13
  • J22
  • J13
  • Key words: Sex division of labour
  • fertility
  • fathers
  • gender relations
  • gender equity
  • time budgets