An Economic Analysis of Fertility in Japan: Will The Husband's Time Spent in Housework and Childcare Increase Birth Probabilities?
Degree awarded: Ph.D. Economics. American University
Japan's fertility rate has been steadily declining since 1967. The fertility rate is one of the lowest in the world and is well below the replacement rate of 2.2. This has raised serious concerns among Japanese policy makers and the public. Evidence in Japan shows the women's dissatisfaction with their husbands' contribution to housework as a main reason for not having children. However, existing economic theory assumes that only women bear the full burden of housework and fertility decisions (Becker 1991, Willis 1973).This dissertation makes a theoretical contribution by incorporating the role of the husband's time spent in unpaid work on women's fertility decisions. A Stackelberg fertility model is developed which diverges from the existing literature in two ways. Firstly, the husband's perception of social norms about intra-household division of labor and the pressure to conform to these norms are determining factors in the husband's contribution to housework. Secondly, the husband's time contribution to housework increases his wife's demand for children in the subsequent period. The dissertation also makes an empirical contribution by testing the hypothesis that the more the husband spends time in housework and childcare, the higher the birth probabilities and time specific birth probabilities. Using Japanese time use panel survey data, it finds that women decide to have their first child even when their husbands are unhelpful. While this result contradicts the hypothesis, husbands without children spend little time in housework to begin with which likely explains this result. For higher birth orders, the husband's time spent in housework increases the birth probability for the second child, but it does not affect the birth probability of the third child. After examining inter-birth spacing, the dissertation finds that the husband's helpfulness affects the ultimate number of children women decide to have, but not the timing of births.
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