Abstract

We address the issue of men’s lagged adaptation to the ongoing revolution of women’s roles. This article proposes a multiple equilibrium approach and shows how modes of couple specialization cluster around qualitatively distinct logics. We identify a traditional, egalitarian, and ‘unstable’ equilibrium. Theory posits that stable equilibria rest on strong normative abidance, and yield more equitable outcomes. In contrast, unstable equilibria are likely to exhibit inequitable behaviour. The latter, we believe, are a transitional feature in the historical shift away from traditional gender roles. Our exploration is based on time-use data for three countries that represent different stages in the revolution of women’s roles: Britain, Denmark, and Spain. Our findings suggest that the consolidation of an egalitarian equilibrium, as is the case for Denmark, is associated with more homogeneity and gender equity in the division of labour. In Spain, the traditional equilibrium is still predominant. In Britain, the erosion of traditional specialization has not yet been met with a strong egalitarian alternative, as is manifested in the prevalence of ‘unstable equilibrium’ behaviour.

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