Economic theories of the household and the marriage market provide potential explanations for differences in household formation rates over time based in part on the evolution of female wages. However, cross-country differences in female market human capital are unlikely to account for the current differences in union formation rates across developed countries.
I develop a partial equilibrium model that formally incorporates social effects on a woman's decision to enter a household. Social effects are modeled as gender roles that constrain potential partners away from the efficient allocation of household labor and diminish the gains to forming a union. Thus, women living in less-egalitarian countries have, ceteris paribus, a lower union formation probability.
I test the model using a cross-country data set at the individual level (1994 and 2002 ISSP), which contains information on attitudes toward gender roles and the allocation of time to household production. The time and cross-country variation in the data, as well as individual reported attitudes toward gender roles, allow for the identification of the effect of gender roles. The empirical findings are consistent with the proposed model of social constraints upon the allocation of household time.