Friday, September 28, 2012

Working times of spouses and well-being

It is now the norm that both partners of a couple work, and with that come issues about coordinating work time around children and allowing for "together-time." While everyone's circumstances are different, policy makers ought to be interested in which work time arrangements yield the most satisfaction, and if the marketplace is not providing for such arrangements, how policy can make it happen.

Christoph Wunder and Guido Heineck use this fantastic tool, the German Socio-Economic Panel, to determine which work schedules couples prefer. Overall, they prefer matching working hours. What I find more interesting is that females prefer it when their partner works full-time, while male are largely unaffected by the number of their partner's working hours. One can find several explanations for this asymmetry, but it is difficult to discount some form of sexism in seeing male work essential, while female work is not, and even females seem to agree with this. But if people are happy with this, why should policy intervene?

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