Individual preferences and labour market outcomes of women and men in Germany

Master's Thesis, 2018

61 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of Contents

List of Tables

List of Figures

1. Introduction

2. Previous Research and Hypotheses
2.1. The theoretical foundations of preference theory
2.2. Testing preference theory
2.3. Preferences in Germany
2.4. Gender pay gap and preference theory
2.5. Hypotheses

3. Data, variables and methods
3.1. Data
3.2 Variables
3.3. Strategy of Analysis

4. Descriptive statistics

5. Results
5.1. Effect of preferences on women
5.2. Effect of preferences on men
5.3. Comparison between women and men

6. Longitudinal Model

7. Discussion

8. References


List of Tables

Table 1: The four central tenets of preference theory

Table 2: Preference typology for women

Table 3: Preference typology for men

Table 4: Comparison between preferences in 1992 and

Table 5: Stepwise Regression analysis for the dependent variable income for men

Table 6: Stepwise regression analysis for the dependent variable income for women

Table 7: Stepwise regression analysis for the dependent variable service for men

Table 8: Stepwise regression analysis for the dependent variable service for women

Table 9: Regression analysis for the dependent variable income

Table 10: Regression analysis for the dependent variable service

Table 11: Effect of individual preferences on the gender pay gap

Table 12: The effect of preferences in 1992 on income in

Table 13: Multinomial regression analysis for preferences in

Table 14: Descriptive statistics for andata

Table 15: Descriptive statistics for andata

Table 16: Descriptive statistics for andata

List of Figures

Figure 1: Distribution of women and men among preference types in

Figure 2 : Preference distribution of women and men in the second sample

Figure 3: Distribution among preference types in

Figure 4: Distribution among preference types in

Figure 5: Dependence of preferences in 2004 on preferences in

1. Introduction

Inequalities in labour market success between women and men have often been topic of analysis in the social sciences, attributing differences to various factors like involvement in unpaid work (Leahy and Doughney, 2014), differences in occupation choice (Polachek, 1981), job characteristics (Bakker and Geurts, 2004) or responsibility for children (McRae, 2003). A new, but controversially discussed approach, is the so-called preference theory proposed by Catherine Hakim (1998, 2000, 2002, 2003a, 2003b, 2003c, 2004a, 2004b, 2006, 2007), who sees preferences regarding work and family as the mayor determinant of women’s employment choices in the 21st century. Hakim claims that due to five important historical changes, namely the contraceptive and the equal opportunities revolution, the increased availability of white-collar occupations, the creation of jobs for secondary earners and the generally increased importance of values, attitudes and preferences for life choices, the influence of institutional and structural factors vanishes, offering women the opportunity to solemnly make their career and family choices based on their personal preferences (Hakim 1998, 2002; Kan 2007).

Proceeding from earlier studies, this paper aims at enhancing the current state of research in three ways. First, in contrast to previous research, which relied on general attitudes to measure preferences, the utilised data set here, allows for the usage of items capturing actual preferences measured as the importance of work and family for the respondents’ own life. Secondly, this study does not only focus on women, but also includes men as a target group, an approach which has been rather neglected in previous research. This offers the possibility to not only analyse differing effects of preferences on labour market outcomes within the group of women, but tests the same for men and further offers the possibility to compare women and men with one another, also with respect to the gender pay gap. Thirdly, this study focusses on Germany which, to my knowledge, was not yet object of an in-depth analysis regarding Hakim´s preference theory and its connection to labour market success. Previous studies only marginally considered Germany during a comparative approach, analysing preferences as a dependent variable (Matějů et al., 2016), respectively their effect on fertility (Vitali et al., 2009) and labour market status (Kangas and Rostgaard, 2007) or had a different focus, analysing the meaning of preferences for the adjustment of future family policies (Bertram et al., 2005)

In detail, objective of this paper is to find answers to the following research questions: 1. Do preferences, and to what extent, lead to variation in labour market success between women and men, within the group of women and within the group of men? 2. Can preferences explain the remaining of a pay gap between women and men? Furthermore, it makes the attempt to test the long-term effect of preferences and their proclaimed stability over the life course, trying to find answers to the questions: 3. If preferences persist over the life course and remain unaffected by labour market factors? And 4. If preferences at one timepoint influence the labour market success at the next time point?

In the following of this paper, I will first give an overview about Hakim´s preference theory, focussing on its development, basic assumptions and relation to various outcomes (Chapter 2.1.). Afterwards, I will present other studies concerned with testing and criticising preference theory, whereby I will particularly look at other factors named as important to explain labour market differences (Chapter 2.2.), before I will evaluate those studies especially focused on Germany (Chapter 2.3.) and have a look at previous research on the interplay of preferences and the gender pay gap (Chapter 2.4.). Next, I will present and describe the hypotheses I want to test (Chapter 2.5.), as well as the variables and the data I am going to use for my analyses (Chapter 3). The main part of this paper focuses on the presentation of the results in relation to the hypotheses and previous research results (Chapter 5 and 6). The paper ends with a summary and discussion, trying to give recommendations for further research, hint at controversies and limitations of the conducted analyses (Chapter 7).

2. Previous Research and Hypotheses

2.1. The theoretical foundations of preference theory

Preference theory was first established by Hakim (2000), who claims that due to five mayor societal changes, namely the contraceptive and the equal opportunities revolution, the increased availability of white-collar occupations, the creation of jobs for secondary earners and the generally increased importance of values, attitudes and preferences for life choices, women in the 21st century have genuine choices regarding their family and work life. While in the past, this was only the case for a small minority of women belonging to wealthy families with liberal ideas, today free choices are open to most of the population. All five changes are needed to lead to this new scenario for women, but the contraceptive and equal opportunities revolutions are ” the core” elements (Hakim 2003b, p.54). Having control over one’s own fertility creates autonomy, responsibility and personal freedom, thus functioning as “[…] an essential precondition for the equal opportunities revolution and other changes […] (Hakim 2003b, p.55). The contraceptive revolution comprising both, the development of contraceptive methods women can control themselves and the unrestricted access to them as well as to abortion, have three main effects. It enables women to control the timing of childbirth, avoid unwanted pregnancies, restrict family size and offers them the possibility to actively choose to remain childless. In combination with the equal opportunities revolution, which gave women equal access to the labour market, women do now have a honest choice between motherhood and employment careers (Hakim, 2000). Although the timing and pace of these changes varied between countries, all modern countries have undergone them. With Great Britain and America as the firsts to have completed all five changes, they function as case studies for the consequences these changes have for women. Besides the importance of the five historical changes, preference theory has three additional central tenets (Hakim, 2002). Hakim argues that it is time to recognise that women are not a homogeneous group, but characterised by diversity in their preferences for family and work (Tenet 2). This implies that there is a conflict between a life centred on employment and a life centred on family, or in other words, “[…] a conflict between production and reproduction[…]” (Hakim, 2000, p. 4). This heterogeneity, leads to conflicting interests between separate groups of women, accordingly offering men an advantage and causing persisting patriarchy (Tenet 3). Furthermore, this heterogeneity of women’s preferences is responsible for a varying responsiveness to social engineering policies (Tenet 4). According to Hakim, the lack of recognition of varying responsiveness has so far hindered the prediction of women´s fertility and employment patterns and should be considered in future research (for a detailed description of all four tenets see table 1).

When the above described changes have occurred, women can choose between three different lifestyles and can accordingly be divided into three categories, home-centred, adaptive and work-centred, based on their preferences concerning labour market participation and family (see table 2). Hereby, the three different preference groups and their size are ideal types present in societies, where they are not biased by social structural and cultural influences. This is the case in Great Britain and the USA, where the labour market is rather unregulated, contradictory policies are in place and without a single dominant ideology (Hakim, 2000). The category of home centred includes women, who see family and children as their main priority in life, prefer not to work and accept the sexual division of housework. Women aiming at a full-time homemaker career are not always low educated, but some even attended universities. However, they only obtained their occupational qualifications as cultural capital respectively use educational institutions as marriage markets, to meet men with good career prospects and at least equal education and social status (Hakim 2000). The number of children these women have, gets influenced by factors like family wealth or social policies, but remains unaffected by employment factors. Some home-centred women never engage in paid work, while others only do so until they are married or have children. If they return to work after marriage or childbirth, it is mostly only because of pressing outward circumstances, e.g. widowhood, divorce or the husbands lack to sufficiently support the family.

Table 1 : The four central tenets of preference theory

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(Source: Hakim 2000)

The second category adaptive is, per Hakim (2002), the category most women can be grouped into and at the same time the most diverse one. It is called adaptive, because those women are highly sensitive to external opportunities and constraints like changes in governmental policies (e.g. employment policies, welfare policies) and factors like public attitudes towards working women, provision of child care service facilities or the availability of part-time jobs. These women gained their qualifications to be able to work in case of necessity, e.g. due to divorce or widowhood, but are not totally devoted to their labour market careers. Most of the women in this category want to have both, children and a work career, without prioritising one, but it also includes drifters and unplanned careers. According to Hakim, drifters are women without clear life goals, who respond to arising opportunities and adjust their goals in response to changing social or economic circumstances. Furthermore, unplanned careers are defined as successful careers of women which came to be more by chance, than by design, or due to opportunities offered by a favouring economic respectively political environment. Adaptive women are highly ambivalent in their attitudes and for some, their behaviour greatly depends on if and whom they marry, as well as whether they stay married (Hakim 2000).

The category of work-centred contains, among others, childless women. Women in this category are focused on their working careers, as well as activities other than motherhood and family e.g. sports, arts or politics, and have highly invested into their training and qualifications. They are accordingly very responsive to changes in economic and political opportunities, but not to social and family policies (Hakim, 1998, 2002). Work-centred women follow the typical male career which became open to women due to the contraceptive and equal opportunities revolution. Some women in this category have children, but don´t regard them as their main activity in life, nor change their priorities after childbirth (Hakim 2000).

Table 2: Preference typology for women

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To operationalize preferences and categorize women into the three categories Hakim (2002) used three questions, one on family model aspirations and two on work commitment. Question one, applied to identify home-centred women, asked the respondents which kind of family model is most preferable for them1, categorising women as home-centred, when they prefer traditional gender roles, where the man takes on the male-breadwinner role. Work-centrality on the other hand was defined by a mixture of adopting a primary earner strategy2 and the non-financial commitment to work3. Accordingly, women are work-centred, when they consider themselves as joint or sole primary earner, would still work, if it were financially not necessary and prefer the egalitarian family model. The adaptive category is a “residual one” (Chromková Manea/Rabušic, 2013, p.24) and contains all other women, who cannot be classified into one of the two other groups e.g. women choosing the compromise family model, who are secondary earners or women preferring the egalitarian family model, but are not work-centred (Hakim 2002). Particularly, Hakim´s categorisation of adaptive women was object of criticism and led other authors to alterations, which will be further discussed in chapter 2.2.

Regarding the sources of preferences, Hakim makes it clear that no single factor or experience, but a combination of factors with varying importance for every person, produces women’s varying responses to the conflict between family and work. Other researchers analysed numerous factors, e.g. educational qualification, family characteristics or sex role attitudes, but could only find small effects, which Hakim attributes to the fact that they focussed on single factors and didn´t look at the collective impact of linked variables. As examples for such variables associated with career orientation she names, among others, the husbands attitude towards a working wife, female role models, a working mother, a supportive father and the education of the women´s parents.

Though Hakim makes it clear that preference theory was explicitly developed for women, she makes the attempt to apply the theory to men (Hakim, 2000). Hereby, the theory is as for women solemnly focused on men in modern societies that have already undergone the five changes offering women a new scenario with genuine choices regarding family and work. The responses of men to the new scenario are hereby rather mixed. While some men are looking forward to shared responsibilities, relieving them from their responsibility as sole income earner, others resent it, preferring to stick to classical role-segregation (Hakim, 2000). The resulting typology for men thereby deviates from the typology of women in two aspects. First, compared to women, where the largest share is adaptive, most men are work-centred (40%-75%) and only a tiny portion is family-centred (5% to 15%), leaving a share of adaptive men of 20% to 40% (see table 3). Secondly, Hakim states that men are more homogeneous than women, focused on competitive activities in the public sphere, instead of non-competitive activities in the family sphere. In Hakim´s opinion, the reason for the differing distribution of men and women among preferences types are on the one hand differences in attitudes and behaviour, and on the other hand the globalization of marriage markets, which allow men to retain their preference for role-segregation and avoiding pressure to change them (Hakim 2002). Furthermore, compared to women, men face higher obstacles in realising their preferred lifestyles. There is no societal support for home-centred men, who don´t engage in paid work and they are likely to have problems in finding a woman accepting a complete role reversal. They and many adaptive men as well, are likely to simply accept the male breadwinner model with them as primary earners.

Table 3: Preference typology for men

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

(Source: Hakim 2000)

2.2. Testing preference theory

Previous research has shown that there is quite a diverse discussion about the effects of preferences regarding work and family. Hakim herself showed that preferences are related to various outcomes, determining women´s fertility, employment patterns and responsiveness to policies, economic and social circumstances (Hakim 2003b). Albeit Hakim is thoroughly convinced that work-family preferences are the main driver of labour market inequalities between women in the 21st century, her theory was confronted with criticism from various sources, all claiming the importance of other institutional, social, structural or economic factors, respectively challenging her method of categorisation. Crompton and Harris (1998a, 1998b), contradict Hakim by stressing the importance of institutional factors, besides choices, posting opportunities and constraints that determine women’s and men´s career paths. Through qualitative interviews with female bankers and doctors from five European countries (Britain, Norway, France, Russia and the Czech Republic), they found that women in different occupations have varying opportunities to combine work and family with one another, which in turn influences the division of domestic work and the number of children these women have. Further, they criticise Hakim, because she neglects to give a justification on why certain women fall into a category and contradict Hakim in her assumption of preferences being stable over the life course by showing the significance of work experiences for changes in paid employment and the domestic division of labour. They can show that those women working as doctors are more likely to make “family friendly working arrangements” (Crompton/Harris, 1998b, p. 125 ), to combine work and family life, which appears to be much more difficult to accomplish by bankers. The comparison between the two groups reveals female bankers to have a less traditional division of domestic labour and fewer children. Crompton and Harris (1998b) argue that women “work on” (Crompton/Harris, 1998b, p.124) their lives and that their biographies are depending on the perceived possibilities. Hakim, however, rejects Crompton and Harris criticism, declaring that their sample completely neglects home-centred women, who “[…] would never seek to become doctors and bankers“ (Hakim, 1998, p. 139) and includes a sample of work-centred women to small, to analyse them. In a second text, in which Crompton and Harris (1998a) react to Hakims reply to their criticism of preference theory, they reinforce their criticism, by ones again stating that Hakim gives no explanation on why, certain women are categorised into a category. For them, the heterogeneity of women´s employment and family choices is based on the women´s socialisation. They further stress that their study, contrary to Hakim´s assertion, does not solemnly focus on adaptive women, lacking the inclusion of family- respectively work-centred women, but includes “careerists by choice” (Crompton/Harris 1998a, p.145), as well as women that give priority to their family, putting “domestic life first” (Crompton/Harris 1998a p.145).In detail, they grouped the women they interviewed into five categories ( plus one for undecided), based on the “satisficing” concept developed by Chafetz and Hagan (1996, cited in Crompton/Harris 1998b). Hereby, women putting their domestic life first want both, success in family life and work, but give priority to the former. On the opposite, careerists, either by choice or necessity, constantly put their work goals first. Most women in their sample were “satisficers”, attempting to realise both their family and work goals, without giving priority to one, while “maximisers”, as their name implies, want to maximize their goals in both areas. Hereby, these categories appear similar to the ones of Hakim´s preference typology, with women prioritising domestic life equalling family-centred women and women prioritising work equalling work-centred women.

Criticising Hakim´s preference theory with respect to its lack of empirical evidence and the reluctance to seriously consider social structural constraints is done by McRae (2003). Using a sample of first birth mothers surveyed at three points in time, she aims at analysing women´s work histories after child birth, their sex role attitudes, and the relation between attitudes and work history. Findings suggest that preferences are neither stable, but that attitude towards work and family, as well as sex-roles have changed over time, nor that a clear and distinctive categorisation of women into preference groups is possible. Although her results show that employment careers are indeed only highly relevant for a small number of women, as Hakim proclaimed, McRae questions that it is preferences relevant for this circumstance. McRae argues that Hakim confuses voluntary action with unconstrained choices (McRae, 2003, p.333) and exemplifies that women having the same preferences for work, find themselves in very different situations, because of their lack of qualification, affordable child care or their husbands preferring conservative sex-roles. For McRae, it is a fact that some women may voluntary choose” [...] to stay at home with young children when to do so may harm their future employment opportunities” (McRae, 2003, p. 333), while at the same time, “[…] for some women, there are no alternatives available after childbirth […].” (McRae, 2003, p. 334). She advocates that both constraints and preferences are equally important to adequately explain women´s labour market choices. Once again, Hakim (2003c) argues against McRae’s (2003) criticism, refuting her claims that preference theory does not account for context factors and states preference theory accounts for micro-level as well as societal constraints affecting women. The lack of abilities or the discovery of them, accidents and ill-health, good or bad marriages, as well as the acceptance respectively rejection for a job or trainee program, are all factors affecting individual lifestyle choices. Unpredictable events like economic recessions, wars, revolutions or changes of governments can prevent women from making unconstraint choices. Models of the ideal women, men, family or lifestyle prevailing in a society, get manifested in public policies, arts, education systems and mass media and in turn shape behaviour. Furthermore, Hakim refers to one of her surveys were she tested the relative impact of preferences and contextual factors to support the meaningfulness of her claim that preferences are more important than structural factors (Hakim, 2002). In detail, she tested the relative impact of work-centred preferences and three variables measuring practical constraints (1. Has a mortgage to pay off, 2. Not a parent of children aged <17, 3. Rejects patriarchal values) on women’s´ full-time work rates. Her analyses show that controlling for work-centred preferences has the highest effect on full-time work rates of women, increasing them by about 20 percentage points, from 36 to 56 percent. Financial obligations (+16 percentage points), not having children (+10 percentage points), and the rejection of patriarchal values (+ 6 percentage points) on the contrary are less meaning full, leading Hakim to reinforce her assumption that preferences are more important than constraining factors.

A critical view on Hakim´s preference theory is also shown in Leahy and Doughney (2014). They stress the link between unpaid (care and housework) and paid work as important for explaining gender inequalities in the Australian labour market. Women take breaks for child care, resulting in employment discontinuity hindering their job opportunities. They show that work is highly gendered in Australia, resulting in women being less likely to work full-time and in management positions, but at the same time more likely to work in low paid and insecure jobs. This gender bias in the workplace, leads Leahy and Doughney (2014) to challenge Hakim´s assumption that the equal opportunities revolution was actually completed, and further criticising preference theory for not accounting for care work as a constraint. For them, preferences are adaptive, meaning that they are formed in response to circumstances and can change.

Likewise, Johnstone and Lee (2009b) classified Australian women into Hakim´s typology and tested for the relative importance of preferences on the one hand, and sociodemographic variables on the other. Their established typology, based on two items asking for the women´s aspiration for work and children, reveals that only 5,2 % could be classified as home-centred, 15.1% as work-centred and the majority of 79,7% was adaptive. Furthermore, contrary to Hakims statement, they find that women are not evenly distributed over preference groups throughout social classes. Unlike, they could show that work-centred women were, compared to adaptive women, less likely to be married or cohabiting, less likely to be a mother, but more likely to be studying. Home-centred women were in contrast more likely to have a lower educational level and more often not working or studying.

As already mentioned in the previous chapter of this paper, Hakim was also criticised regarding her method of categorisation. While Crompton and Harris (1998b), generally criticise Hakim´s lack of a profound explanation for her categorisation, other scholars´ criticism is particularly aimed at Hakim´s definition of adaptive individuals. Both Johnstone and Lee (2009a) and Chromková Manea and Rabušic (2013), describe the adaptive group as a residual one, including all individuals, who could not be grouped into one of the two other categories, making it a […]“´safe´ but effectively meaningless category ” (Johnstone and Lee, 2009a, p. 13). Trying to improve the conceptualization, Schleutker (2017) undertakes a further distinction of the adaptive category, distinguishing three types of adaptive women based on the way they want to combine family and work. The first adaptive group, home-oriented adaptive women, give higher priority to family than to work. They prefer to stay at home until the youngest child is older and then return to work. These women are at the beginning very responsive to policies supporting homemaking and later to policies regarding child care. The women categorised as truly adaptive waver between family and work: they neither want to stay out of work for too long, nor do they want to be absent from home by working long hours. These women prefer to work part time and are accordingly very responsive to the availability of part-time jobs and child care services. The group of work-oriented adaptive women prioritise work over family, only staying at home for a brief period. In contrast to work-oriented women, they want to work part time when they have small children, and only return to full-time work, when the children are older. Therefore, they are responsive to policies supporting availability of child care and part-time jobs, but not responsive to generous parental leaves.

As can be seen, all this strong critic of her theory has not remained unanswered by Hakim, but resulted into a number of further studies and reviews, demonstrating the relevance of preference theory and its assumptions, as well as arguing against single critic points (Hakim, 1998, 2002, 2003c, 2007). Overall, she counters the critic that preference theory lacks to consider the effect of constraining factors by stating, “I have never said that the social and economic context is irrelevant. On the contrary, I point out that ‘preferences do not express themselves in a vacuum [... ] and do not predict outcomes with complete certainty’ because of the social context ” (Hakim, 2003c, p. 342) and further stating “It is simply not true that I claim that preferences are the sole determinant of women’s choices today“ (Hakim, 2003c, p. 343) .

Apart from studies criticising Hakims preference theory, there is also a broad range of research testing various assumptions (e.g. labour market participation, fertility) preference theory made, and offering, to varying extent, support for it. Kan (2007) for example, evaluates Hakim´s theory by testing three assumptions preference theory has made. First, she tests its assumption that women are heterogeneous in their lifestyle preferences and free in their choices. Secondly, she analyses, if work-centred women are in comparison to home-centred and adaptive women not negatively affected by children and thirdly that preferences effect labour market participation, but not the other way around. Hereby, her results lend both support and critic to Hakim´s preference theory. In detail, she found an interaction effect between children and women´s work-life preferences, showing that work-centred attitudes reduce the negative effect children pose on women´s employment careers. This, and the fact that work-centred women work full time over a longer period, both lend support for Hakim´s claim that preferences shape women´s employment careers (Kan, 2007). Still, her results also found evidence against Hakim´s theory, showing that preferences are not independent of employment experiences, but can be altered over time. These results lead Kan (2007) to the conclusion that both, preferences and constraints e.g. children, are important for women´s employment careers and contradicts other authors strictly focusing on only one of them as sole determinates of female employment paths.

While Hakim (2000, 2003a) and Kan (2007) concentrate on the British context, analysing preference theory in the Czech Republic is aim of the study of Rabušic and Chromková Manea (2007).They particularly focus on testing three aspects: If Czech women are conforming to Hakim´s typology (1), if this typology is a good predictor of Czech fertility (2) and if it influences women’s attitude towards family policy measures (3). Hereby, they orientate their own preference typology towards Hakim´s original one, using the same measurement items (Hakim, 2003a). First, their results show a similar distribution of Czech women among the three preference categories as in Britain. Furthermore, they can show the significance of several characteristics and their correlation with different preferences. Among others, education is positively related with work-centeredness, manifesting in a higher share of work-centeredness, among highly educated women and vis versa. Older women (30-40 years), divorced and widowed women, also have a higher share of work-centeredness, while women with three or more children can rather be found in the group of family-centred women. Whilst their results reveal lifestyle preferences to be a good predictor of gender role attitudes and the relation between family and work, the results with respect to research question two, testing its role as predictor for fertility, show no support. Hakim´s typology is not a good predictor of fertility in the Czech Republic. However, the results once again can show support for the assumption of hypothesis three, showing that women with different preferences differ in their family policy attitudes, as Hakim described in her threefold typology (see table 2). In a later attempt, Chromková Manea and Rabušic (2013) test preference theory again, but this time including women and men, focusing on determinants of preferences and factors impeding the individuals preference realisation. In this study they also stress critic points regarding Hakim´s operationalisation of the adaptive category and the only marginal consideration of constraining factors. They identified several factors named by respondents as barriers for not fulfilling their work-family preferences. Most important, for both women and men, appears to be the negative economic consequences of the desired model, followed by inappropriate working conditions and the lack of finding suitable employment. Furthermore, the partner´s disagreements with the desired model, difficulties in caring for children and the missing acceptance by the respondents´ social environment, are factors preventing women and men from realising their true preferences. Regarding determinants of preferences, they can identify a range of factors responsible for the constitution of either family- or work-centred preferences. Among others, women are less likely to be work-oriented than men, while respondents that have never been married are 2.7 times more likely to be work-centred. Furthermore, the number of children, traditional gender roles and the child value index are negatively related to work-centrality and hence positively related to being family-centred. Finally, the odds of being family-centred decrease with rising educational level, whilst unemployed individuals are more likely to have family-centred preferences.

Similar, Nilsson et al. (2017) aim at analysing three assumptions of preference theory in the Swedish context, using longitudinal data and focusing their analyses on women and men when they are 21 and 30 years old. They want to detect, if gender differences in preferences exist, if preferences get affected by changes in family and work life, as well as analyse the relation between preferences and actual behaviour in work and family life. Their results however deliver only minor support for Hakim´s theory, proving the existence of a long-term effect of preferences in terms of a positive relation between preferences for having children or having a partner at age 21, and the probability of women having children at age 30, as well as proving the existence of gender differences in preferences between women and men. Whereat said differences differ from the preference varieties between women and men proposed by Hakim. Nilsson et al. (2017) found that Swedish women have a higher preference for work and children than men, while Hakim found men to be more work-centred than women (Hakim, 2000). Furthermore, and particularly interesting because it contradicts Hakim´s assumption of preference stability, is that women and men both adapt their preferences to changing work and family circumstances. So, men and women having children between 21 and 30 will also have stronger preferences for children and likewise, women and men becoming employed will increase in their work-centeredness.

2.3. Preferences in Germany

As already mentioned in the introductory part, there has not yet been a study exclusively focussing on the interrelations between preference theory proposed by Hakim and labour market success variables in Germany. There is however research which strives Germany during a comparative approach for different European countries and analysing the meaning of preferences for labour market involvement, fertility rates, family policies or as a dependent variable. Although, they focus on explaining other topics, these studies are still of importance for this paper with respect to their measuring of preferences, the distribution of German women and men among the different preference types and the significance of preferences in the German context.

One of these studies applying a comparative approach for a range of European countries, including Germany, is the text of Matějů et al. (2016) using data of the 2nd wave of the European Social Survey (ESS), which in total includes data of 25 European countries. They analyse preferences as a dependent variable, pursuing three goals, namely (a) analysing the role of education and values in shaping work-family-preferences of European women, (b) the persistence of economic conditions posing constraints and (c) the role of patriarchal gender roles. The theoretical foundation of their research is based on both, the Dual-process models and Schwartz´ basic values theory. They expect that values should be associated with preferences; whereby conservative values should predict family-centred preferences and the value of self-direction should predict work-centred preferences (Hypothesis 1). Furthermore, they assume that socioeconomic barriers at societal level should have negligible effects on preferences, compared to values or other controllable factors (Hypothesis 2). Thirdly, they expect education to be highly associated with work-centred preferences (Hypothesis 3). Their results support Hakim´s preference theory regarding distribution of women among types and regarding association with values. For Germany, their results showed a distribution among preference types of 11.3 % (family-centred), 62.6 % (adaptive) and 26.1 % (work-centred). Especially, they found a strong interaction, as hypothesized, with conservatism and self-direction and a close relation between preferences and education. Higher education drives work-preferences and can reduce the negative effect of a conservative environment on women´s work-centred preferences. Overall, they draw a positive conclusion, support Hakim´s theory and defend her against critical voices, solemnly stressing constraints as major determinants. However, like Kan (2007), their results show a reciprocal relationship between preferences and labour market participation, which contradicts Hakim´s claim of preference stability over the life course.

Another comparative approach for seven European countries is applied by Kangas and Rostgaard (2007), who however focus on testing the importance of day care (availability, access, costs and quality), family leave arrangements, and spouse attitudes on moderating the effect preferences have on labour market participation. They selected the countries for their analysis based on the family policy type, dividing between countries with continental (Germany and the Netherlands), liberal (England) and dual-earner (Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden) family policy models. Regarding structural factors, they find that having children, generous family leave arrangements and day care availability are important. Furthermore, being employed in the public sector increases the likelihood to work-part time, while not having a partner increases the likeliness of being full-time employed. Finally, they can also show an interrelation between a woman´s employment choice and her husband’s home-centred preferences. Based on their results, they conclude that a correlation between preferences and labour market status exists, but that structural factors matter as well, which again offers support for both, Hakim´s preference theory and its critics advocating the importance of constraints.

Bertram et al. (2005), particularly focus on Germany, using preference theory to explain low fertility rates, childlessness, and as a mean to give recommendations on how the recognition of preferences can help to improve future family policies, increase birth rates and facilitate the compatibility of full-time work and family. To measure preferences, they use a list of items measuring the respondents’ attitude on children, marriage, educational goals and career orientation. Their paper offers information on preference distribution of women and men for the years 1994 and 2000, showing that the distribution of women among the preference types is conforming to Hakim´s typology. In 1994, 26 % of the women in the sample were work-centred, 60 % adaptive and only 14 % family-centred. In 2000, the number of work-centred women has declined to 21%, in favour of an increase of adaptive women on 65 %, while the number of family-centred women remained constant. For men the distribution remained stable between both time points, showing that two-thirds are work-centred and one-third adaptive, implying that no men could be grouped as family-centred. Looking at the distribution among preference types which Schleutker (2017) established for West- and East Germany separately and for different time points, she finds substantial differences between East and West, as well as changes over time. In East-Germany, the share of home-oriented women was always below 5%, while in West-Germany, it used to be very high, but declined from 34% in 1988, to below 10% in 2012. The share of work-centred women has increased in both, West-and East Germany, however on a diverse level. In West-Germany, less than 10% were work-centred in 2012, while this was the case for 25% in East-Germany. The group of truly adaptive is largest in East- and West Germany (44% vs 56%), followed by work-oriented adaptive with 18% (West-Germany) respectively 25% (East-Germany). Home-oriented adaptive constitutes the third largest group in West-Germany (16%), but is only marginal important in East Germany (<10%).

What all these studies have in common though, is that they measure preferences based on general attitudes and not subjective opinions. This is a drawback many studies on preference theory have, due to a lack of suitable data and which leaves room for speculations that the distribution among preference types might differ, if only items are used that explicitly focus on the individuals ‘opinion for his or her life.

2.4. Gender pay gap and preference theory

The research strand of the gender pay gap focuses on the transnational and persistent gap in the hourly wage of women and men. In 2014, the unadjusted gender pay gap amounted to 22%, whereby it was higher in West Germany (23%), than in East Germany (9%). Part of this income difference can be explained by structural factors, referring to personal-, job- and company-related factors, showing the remaining of an adjusted gender pay gap of 6% in 2014 (Statistisches Bundesamt, 2016). The part of the pay gap which remains after the adjustment, gets often ascribed to discrimination, a fact which is criticised by various researchers. Boll and Leppin (2015), for example, state that the unexplained part of the gender pay gap is not due to discrimination, but due to four behavioural processes (Assignment, Sorting, Self-Selection and Bargaining). Assignment processes in the society regarding gender roles influence individual occupation choices and are responsible for segregation of women and men into different occupations and labour market sectors (horizontal segregation), as well as differing hierarchical positions within (vertical segregation). Secondly, employers make decisions regarding hiring and promotion of women based on prevailing gender roles and their previous experiences, and in turn influence women’s access to jobs respectively managerial positions (Sorting). Furthermore, women´s behaviour in bargaining processes, when wages get negotiated, differs from men´s. Finally, self-selection processes play a key role in explaining income differences between women and men. Women and men have diverse preferences regarding their work life and accordingly make different employment choices. Hereby, the process of self-selection appears to be particularly important for this paper, because it states that men and women make different employment decisions based on their preferences, an explanation, Hakim herself gives for the different labour market outcomes of women and men.


1 In detail, the respondents could choose between the following options:1. A family, where both partners have an equally demanding job and housework and child care get equally divided among the partners; 2. A family, where the wife has a less demanding job and does the larger share of housework and child care; 3. A family, where only the husband has a job and the wife stays at home; 4. None of these three (Hakim (2002, p. 441)

2 Who is the main income earner in your household? Is it yourself? Your partner/spouse? Both of you jointly? Or someone else? Hakim (2002, p. 441)

3 The exact question read as follows: If without having to work you had what you would regard as a reasonable living income would you still prefer to have a paid job, or wouldn´t you bother? Hakim (2002, p. 441)

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Individual preferences and labour market outcomes of women and men in Germany
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Preference Theory, Labour market success, Inequality, Germany
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Annika Frings (Author), 2018, Individual preferences and labour market outcomes of women and men in Germany, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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