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Keywords:

  • Gender;
  • urban space;
  • family households;
  • division of labour

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Background
  4. Data and Methods
  5. Gender Divisions of Paid Work in the Netherlands
  6. Mapping the Gender Division of Paid Work in Amsterdam
  7. Symmetrical Households in Amsterdam
  8. Discussion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

Research shows that female participation rates are lower in suburbs than in urban areas. In this paper we explore the residential patterns of the gender division of family households at the level of the neighbourhood. We draw on national register data (SSB) to define various arrangements of the way in which parents with dependent children divide paid work. These household arrangements are plotted onto maps to sketch the geography of division of paid work in Amsterdam. Our findings show that family households with specific gender divisions of paid work tend to cluster in specific residential environments: (1) families who work with a traditional division of labour are concentrated in social-housing estates in neighbourhoods with high shares of non-Western minorities; (2) one-and-a-half earner families are clustered in the most suburban parts of the city; and (3) symmetrical and female-breadwinner households concentrate in central gentrification areas of the city.


Background

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Background
  4. Data and Methods
  5. Gender Divisions of Paid Work in the Netherlands
  6. Mapping the Gender Division of Paid Work in Amsterdam
  7. Symmetrical Households in Amsterdam
  8. Discussion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

Despite the increasing participation of women in the labour market in Western countries, the division of labour within households is still highly gendered. In family households in particular, men often remain the main breadwinners, whereas women generally combine smaller jobs with a larger share of domestic labour. In the Netherlands, the majority of family households are composed of a male spouse who works full-time and a woman who earns an ‘auxiliary’ income through part-time work (SCP 2011a). The Netherlands leads Europe in part-time work for women (72%), but Dutch men also have relatively high rates of part-time work (21%) (Corral & Isusi 2007). The Dutch labour market facilitates various levels of weekly working hours and a wide variety of arrangements in which partners divide their labour. This situation is unique in the Western world. The variety of household arrangements used by Dutch fathers and mothers to divide paid work offers an interesting opportunity to study gender relations.

The division of labour in the Netherlands has been the topic of a wide range of studies (Plantenga et al. 1999; Van der Lippe & Van Dijk 2001; Plantenga 2002; Visser 2002; Yerkes 2009; SCP 2011a; Wielers & Raven 2013). Most of these studies have tended to investigate the relation between labour policies and labour market participation at the (inter)national (comparative) level. Few of these studies have focused on spatial variations of the division of labour within countries or how space affects the participation of men and women in the labour market.

However, feminist scholars have argued that men and women's labour market participation and division of labour have a clear spatial dimension (McDowell 1983; Hanson & Pratt 1995). In the Netherlands, it has been shown that female participation in the labour market is higher in urban contexts than in less urban or suburban contexts (De Meester et al. 2007; Brun & Fagnani 1994; Karsten et al. 2013). Other qualitative studies have suggested that so-called symmetrical families, in which women and men have an equal share of paid work, tend to live in urban locations and are associated with processes of gentrification (Bondi 1999; Karsten 2007).

These spatial variations often have been explained by pointing to the role that location plays in the time management of everyday life, particularly in households with a ‘time squeeze’, such as families with young children (Kwan 1999; Clarkberg & Moen 2001; Jarvis 2005). These studies have suggested that urban locations offer better access to jobs (for both spouses) (Van Ham et al. 2001) and amenities such as childcare; they have referred to such areas as having a ‘rich-opportunity structure’ (Van Ham & Mulder 2005; De Meester et al. 2007; Schwanen 2007). Other studies have emphasised that specific social groups (i.e., groups defined by ethnicity or class) have different residential practices that correlate with their labour market participation and household division of labour (Vijgen & Van Engelsdorp Gastelaars 1992; Duncan & Smith 2002; SCP 2011a).

In sum, the literature has suggested that two types of mechanisms can explain why certain divisions of labour are concentrated in specific residential environments. On the one hand, there are area-based effects, that is, that certain residential environments affect spouses' participation in the labour market and the division of labour within households, independent of their individual characteristics. This explanation is generally more relevant at the national level, which involves longer distances, than at the urban level, where different residential areas have equally short distances to work and other amenities. On the other hand, there are explanations of the division of labour that are based on selection effects. That means that certain families live in specific places as a result of their preferences and constraints. Selection effects are expected to account for much of the variation on both the national and urban levels. The aim of this paper is not to identify area-based effects or to analytically separate them from selection effects. Instead, this study aims first to assess the suggestions of qualitative studies that symmetrical households are overrepresented in urban environments, by providing a quantitative description of various arrangements of divisions of labour in the Netherlands (third section). Second, it aims to explore and tentatively explain the spatial patterns of divisions of labour at the level of the neighbourhood in Amsterdam (fourth and fifth sections).

Data and Methods

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Background
  4. Data and Methods
  5. Gender Divisions of Paid Work in the Netherlands
  6. Mapping the Gender Division of Paid Work in Amsterdam
  7. Symmetrical Households in Amsterdam
  8. Discussion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

In this study, we use a unique dataset that is composed of register data for all Dutch citizens: the Dutch Social Statistical Database 2008 (SSB). The SSB data have enabled us to explore and define various arrangements of the division of labour within family households in the Netherlands and, more specifically, in neighbourhoods in Amsterdam. The analysis presented here is based on datasets containing information about household characteristics and employment status. We focus on two-parent families. Because the SSB does not contain data on the working hours of the self-employed, we cannot include households in which one of the partners is self-employed. This omission obviously has an effect on our results. Because men are more often self-employed than women, it may lead to an underestimation of the share of households in which men work significantly more than women.

We have selected only households that include people who live together with a partner of the opposite sex, have dependent children up to 18 years old,1 and in which at least one of the partners was in paid employment on 1 January 2008. We categorise the various ways in which partners divide their paid work on the basis of both partners' number of hours of paid work.

Furthermore, we have calculated the proportion of the total number of selected two-parent families engaged in each arrangement at the national level and at the Amsterdam-neighbourhood level. The latter are plotted onto neighbourhood maps to identify spatial patterns.

Household arrangements for paid work are not only a measure of men and women's separate labour market participation but also represent a division of labour. In this paper, various arrangements are used as an indicator of the degree of gender equality within households and of households' work-life balance. Official reports about emancipation have defined household arrangements as permutations of part-time work, full-time work and no work (SCP 2011a). We propose a more diverse and fluid taxonomy of household arrangements that allows for a more nuanced description of household gender relations based on two dimensions. The first dimension is the difference between the number of hours worked by each parent. The second dimension is the extent to which a household's arrangement deviates from the traditional, male-breadwinner arrangement. The resulting taxonomy reflects the existing diversity of labour market arrangements that are facilitated by labour policies in the Netherlands. We define seven different arrangements, each of which have a different position on the axes of symmetry and tradition (see Table 1).

Table 1. Definitions of household arrangements for the division of paid work
ArrangementHours worked by menHours worked by womenHours difference
Male breadwinner≥120Men ≥12
1½ small≥361–24Men ≥12
1½ large≥3625–32Men ≥4
Dual full-time≥36≥36Not defined
Dual part-time1–351–35Men or women ≤4
Female dominantVariesVariesWomen >4
Female breadwinner0≥12Women ≥12
OtherVariesVariesVaries

Male breadwinner

Men work full-time; women do not participate in paid work. The male-breadwinner household used to be the dominant arrangement throughout most of the Western world, including the Netherlands, but now is in decline (Pfau-Effinger 2004; SCP 2011a). We consider this traditional type of arrangement to be the least symmetrical. The male-breadwinner arrangement is the baseline to which the other arrangements are compared.

1½ small

Men work full time and women have small, part-time jobs, usually two or three days per week (1–24 hours). Today, this is the most common division of labour in Dutch family households (SCP 2011a). Because men are still the primary breadwinners, we consider this to be a neo-traditional arrangement (Clarkberg & Moen 2001) in which gender relations remain asymmetrical.

1½ large

In this arrangement, men work full time and women work more than three days a week (25–32 hours). Men make few or no compromises in their careers; female spouses also pursue serious careers, often in sectors (primarily, the public sector) in which it is possible to forge a career path on the basis of substantial part-time work. We consider this arrangement to be non-traditional, in which some asymmetry remains.

Dual-full time

This type of household, in which both fathers and mothers work full time, is rare in the Netherlands (SCP 2011b) but is becoming more common. This arrangement is considered to be symmetrical and non-traditional.

Dual part time

This arrangement, in which both spouses work part time, is also considered to be symmetrical and non-traditional. It reflects official emancipation policies in the Netherlands that enable both mothers and fathers to engage in part-time work, allowing them to combine work and childcare (SCP 2011a).

Female breadwinner

In the female breadwinner arrangement, women are the only breadwinners. This is considered to be an asymmetrical arrangement, but a non-traditional one.

Female dominant

This arrangement, in which women work at least four hours more than men do, is not very common. Most of these families are dual-career households in which women work more hours than men. We consider this to be a non-traditional arrangement that is relatively symmetrical.

Gender Divisions of Paid Work in the Netherlands

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Background
  4. Data and Methods
  5. Gender Divisions of Paid Work in the Netherlands
  6. Mapping the Gender Division of Paid Work in Amsterdam
  7. Symmetrical Households in Amsterdam
  8. Discussion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

In this section, we present the distribution of household arrangements related to paid work according to the degree of urbanity in the Netherlands. A municipality's degree of urbanity is defined on the basis of the average density of addresses per square kilometre, as maintained by Statistics Netherlands (CBS 2013). Based on the work of De Meester et al. (2007) we expect that higher densities correlate with more symmetrical and non-traditional household arrangements.

From Table 2, it appears that the proportion of dual full-time and dual part-time arrangements increases with the degree of urbanity. Amsterdam has even a higher share of such arrangements than do other very strongly urban municipalities. In addition, families in which women work more than men are overrepresented in urban environments, and again, the highest proportion of such arrangements is found in Amsterdam. The small one-and-one-half arrangement follows the opposite pattern: the higher the degree of urbanity, the lower the share of this household type. In Amsterdam, a mere 13 per cent of families divide paid work in this way.

Table 2. Household arrangements of paid work in the Netherlands, according to degree of urbanity (%)
 Male breadwinner1½ small1½ largeDual Full timeDual-part timeFemale dominantFemale breadwinnerOtherTotal (n)
Amsterdam31.913.222.48.87.13.98.24.5100 (n = 35,100)
Highly urbanised (excluding Amsterdam)27.020.924.17.16.82.96.05.3100 (n = 134,999)
Urbanized24.929.922.75.05.42.14.65.3100 (n = 376,202)
Moderately urbanized24.733.221.44.75.01.84.05.3100 (n = 270,386)
Hardly urbanized25.735.819.33.94.61.73.75.4100 (n = 300,937)
Not urbanized25.935.618.23.55.01.84.15.9100 (n = 158,664)
Total25.631.321.24.85.32.04.45.4100 (n = 1,276,288)

The traditional male-breadwinner arrangement, however, presents more puzzling results. The share of households that divide their labour according to this arrangement is higher in highly urbanized municipalities and highest in Amsterdam. A more detailed analysis (not included in this paper2) has clarified that this result is caused by a composition effect: urban areas have a relatively high concentration of non-Western immigrants (notably, From Morocco and Turkey) whose division of labour by gender is, in general, more traditional (SCP 2011a).

The results from Table 2 are in line with previous studies that have predicted or found a positive correlation between degree of urbanity and symmetry in task division (de Meester et al. 2007). Amsterdam seems to represent the clearest example of an urban environment that is inhabited by symmetrical households. Nonetheless, the male-breadwinner arrangement, in which the division of labour between the genders is organised traditionally, is also higher in Amsterdam. It thus seems that in Amsterdam, gender relations are rather polarised. Because this division of labour by gender is influenced by ethnicity and is correlated to household income, we expect that this polarisation is also visible in spatial patterns within Amsterdam. We expect male-breadwinner families to be concentrated in post-war neighbourhoods that have high concentrations of non-Western immigrant households, whereas we expect the most suburban parts of the city to be inhabited by one-and-one-half earner families. We anticipate that symmetrical households are typically found in gentrifying and gentrified areas in the central boroughs. We will now plot the various arrangements geographically onto neighbourhood maps of Amsterdam.

Mapping the Gender Division of Paid Work in Amsterdam

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Background
  4. Data and Methods
  5. Gender Divisions of Paid Work in the Netherlands
  6. Mapping the Gender Division of Paid Work in Amsterdam
  7. Symmetrical Households in Amsterdam
  8. Discussion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

We now consider maps that show the spatial patterns of the various arrangements of gendered paid-work divisions within the city of Amsterdam (see Figure 1). Figure 1 shows the various spatial concentrations of six of the seven household types in Amsterdam neighbourhoods (excluding female dominant because this category is too small to include at the neighbourhood level). A dark tint indicates high concentrations of that particular household type. As is clear from these maps, there are strong spatial patterns of concentrations of specific arrangements for the gender division of labour:

figure

Figure 1. Spatial patterns six models for division of paid work in Amsterdam neighbourhoods.

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Male breadwinner

This household type is most commonly found in post-war neighbourhoods in the western borough and urban renewal areas that have high proportions of social rental housing. The area around Minervaplein (Zuid WTC) also has concentrations of male-breadwinner families.

1½ (small)

This family arrangement is found relatively often in the most suburban areas at the fringes of the municipality, such as Osdorp de Aker, Tuindorp Oostzaan and Waterland.

1½ (large)

Families that have a semi-symmetrical division of labour are overrepresented in areas that are either newly built suburban areas, such as IJburg, or pre-war neighbourhoods in the central boroughs, such as Rivierenbuurt.

Dual full time

Dual full-time families are overrepresented in the most affluent central neighbourhoods of Oud Zuid and the Canal Belt. Remarkably, this household division is also relatively common in the Bijlmermeer area.

Dual part time

Families in which partners both work part time are primarily concentrated in central neighbourhoods that are gentrified or gentrifying, such as Westerpark. This type of arrangement is also relatively common in the newly built areas of IJburg and Oostelijk Havengebied.

Female breadwinner

This household arrangement seems to be overrepresented in central neighbourhoods such as Westerpark and Weesperzijdebuurt. This type of arrangement is also concentrated in the Bijlmermeer.

Symmetrical Households in Amsterdam

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Background
  4. Data and Methods
  5. Gender Divisions of Paid Work in the Netherlands
  6. Mapping the Gender Division of Paid Work in Amsterdam
  7. Symmetrical Households in Amsterdam
  8. Discussion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

To focus on possible explanations of these spatial patterns, we divided our selection of Amsterdam family households into two groups: symmetrical and non-symmetrical households. The share of symmetrical households3 per neighbourhood is plotted onto one map (Figure 2). For each neighbourhood, the map shows the proportion of symmetrical families. As shown in Figure 2, there is a clear spatial pattern: most of the centrally located neighbourhoods have the highest shares of symmetrical households, whereas most of the more peripheral neighbourhoods outside of the ring road have far lower shares.

figure

Figure 2. Share of symmetrical family households as % of all family households in Amsterdam neighbourhoods (total n = 35,100).

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Within Amsterdam, centrally located neighbourhoods with high densities have high shares of symmetrical households. Notably, the areas that could be characterised as gentrification or family gentrification areas (Boterman et al. 2010) are the areas that have the strongest concentration of such households. In addition, newly-built middle-class areas such as Oostelijk Havengebied and IJburg are among the areas in which symmetrical households are concentrated (see also Karsten 2003; Karsten et al. 2013). Correspondingly, the areas with relatively low social economic status and lower densities, such as the Northern and Western boroughs, have the lowest proportions of symmetrical households.

Discussion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Background
  4. Data and Methods
  5. Gender Divisions of Paid Work in the Netherlands
  6. Mapping the Gender Division of Paid Work in Amsterdam
  7. Symmetrical Households in Amsterdam
  8. Discussion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

This paper provides quantitative support for previous qualitative studies that have argued that symmetrical households are overrepresented in urban areas. At the same time, it appears that traditional, male-breadwinner families are also overrepresented in cities. Amsterdam presents an extreme case in point: although it boasts both the highest share of symmetrical and non-traditional households, male-breadwinner arrangements are the largest category of households in the city. Because our data focus only on two-parent families and exclude the self-employed, we should be careful not to overstate our findings.

By focusing on Amsterdam, we demonstrate that household arrangements have clear spatial patterns. Three main spatial patterns of gender divisions of labour can be observed: (i) families that have a traditional division of labour are spatially concentrated in post-war neighbourhoods that generally have high proportions of non-Western minorities; (ii) neo-traditional, one-and-one-half earner families are particularly oriented towards the most suburban parts of the city; and (iii) non-traditional, symmetrical and female-breadwinner households are concentrated in centrally located middle-class or gentrification areas. These spatial patterns are the outcome of a complex set of factors and are associated with various mechanisms. This paper does not aim to unravel this complexity. Nevertheless, explanations of why specific household types live in particular areas should be connected to selection and related composition effects, as well as neighbourhood conditions that potentially affect task divisions within households.

It is most likely that these spatial variations are attributable, in large part, to composition effects. In Amsterdam, two highly interrelated factors structure certain households' selection of specific neighbourhoods: income and ethnicity. In Amsterdam, the areas with high shares of male-breadwinner families are also the areas where many Moroccan-Dutch and Turkish-Dutch families live. Within those immigrant families, male-breadwinner arrangements are over-represented.

Even more importantly, household income is crucial for access to specific sections of the housing market and thus to specific neighbourhoods. Specific households' selection of particular neighbourhoods is strongly related to the fact that, for instance, dual, full-time-earner households have relatively high incomes on average, whereas households with one or one-and-one-half-earner families have lower incomes. However, without denying its structural character, household income is also to some extent the outcome of intra-household negotiations concerning the amount and division of paid work. Specific arrangements may also be the outcome of certain residential preferences.

Some studies have already demonstrated that the new middle classes are the agents of gentrification and have attributed non-traditional gender practices to them; these studies have found that such groups tend be relatively urban in their orientation, also when they have children (Boterman 2012). Various qualitative studies have suggested that high levels of female labour market participation and symmetrical gender divisions of labour within family households are related to urban conditions of specific – centrally located – residential environments (Brun & Fagnani 1994; Bondi 1999; Butler & Robson 2003; Karsten, 2007). Among these so-called family gentrifiers, care and career are reconciled by choosing a residential environment that offers rich-opportunity structure: the inner city. The present study offers some quantitative support for that claim (see also Hjortol & Bjornskau 2005).

In future research, it will be necessary to address issues that this paper has only touched on. The agenda for future research may include three different strains. First, longitudinal research could analyse the dynamics of task division and residential choice. This strategy would resolve some of the problems associated with selection effects. Second, multivariate analyses could be performed to identify independent neighbourhood effects. Finally, qualitative research should be carried out to investigate further the complexity of the ways in which parents negotiate and manage the balance between work and family in various residential environments and how their residential choices are related to this balance.

Acknowledgements

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Background
  4. Data and Methods
  5. Gender Divisions of Paid Work in the Netherlands
  6. Mapping the Gender Division of Paid Work in Amsterdam
  7. Symmetrical Households in Amsterdam
  8. Discussion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References

The authors would like to thank Nienke Nottelman and Carine van Oosteren, the anonymous referees, and the editor for contributing to the development of this paper. The research reported here was funded by the NWO, research grant 400-07-058.

Notes
  1. 1

    Children officially reach adulthood at age 18 in the Netherlands.

  2. 2

    Analysis available on request

  3. 3

    Symmetrical households are here defined as a difference of 8 hours or less. All dual part-time households and most dual full time, 1½ (large), and female dominant families into this symmetrical category. However, some of these families may still have an asymmetrical division (in case the primary breadwinner works over 8 hours more. Furthermore, some families that are categorised as ‘other’ have been included in the symmetrical category.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Background
  4. Data and Methods
  5. Gender Divisions of Paid Work in the Netherlands
  6. Mapping the Gender Division of Paid Work in Amsterdam
  7. Symmetrical Households in Amsterdam
  8. Discussion
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
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