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Gendered Divisions of Fertility Work: Socioeconomic Predictors of Female Versus Male Sterilization


  • This article was edited by David Demo.

Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Gonzaga University, 502 East Boone Avenue, Spokane, WA 99258 (


Domestic labor researchers have examined a multitude of duties disproportionately performed by women, yet the responsibility associated with navigating a couple's fertility—fertility work—has been overlooked. Using data from the 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth (N = 1,415), the author examined how racial and socioeconomic factors affect the division of contraceptive fertility work among married and cohabiting women who rely on either their partners' vasectomies or their own sterilizations. Drawing theoretical connections between fertility work and housework, resource- and gender-based perspectives were used to assess whether women's or their partners' characteristics are stronger predictors of sterilization type, and whether women's absolute or relative education level has a greater impact. Findings suggest that White and socioeconomically privileged women are more likely to have vasectomized partners than disadvantaged women. Male partners' characteristics were more closely associated with sterilization type than women's characteristics, lending greater support for the gender-based hypotheses.