Although the social-economic status of women has improved worldwide, with several factors reducing gender differences in labor participation and income equality, a substantial gender gap persists. The goal of this study is to determine how the gender gap is associated with social norms. Specifically, within the context of gender roles, we examine the social norm that wives should not earn more than their husbands. We estimate a model that explains wives’ labor force participation in terms of the probability of wives earning more than their husbands by applying an estimation procedure that accounts for potential bias arising from self-selection into employment. Since the impact of social norms can vary in different cultural contexts, we compare the estimation results using datasets obtained from surveys conducted in Japan and the US—representing Eastern and Western cultures, respectively. Our results indicate that a 10 percentage point increase in the probability of wives earning more than their husbands is associated with an 8 percentage point decrease in their labor force participation rate in Japan, whereas the probability of wives earning more is not significant when the model is estimated using U.S. data. Thus, wives’ labor force participation decisions can be related to the social norm more closely in Japan than in the US, reflecting the different social status of women in these countries.
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