Understanding Society Scientific Conference 2019 - , University of Essex

Who does what in the end? The sexual division of labour in migrant-native couples or how to connect gendered trajectories and gendered outcomes to migration

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Day:Tue 2 Jul
  • Marion Lieutaud, London School of Economics

Couples nowadays are more likely to form relationships across borders and national origins: it is a by-product of globalization and growing population movements. Thus migrant-native couples have become a figure of international migration and cosmopolitanism. In parallel, greater attention to the numbers and diversity of women’s migrations has brought out gender differences, yet the (re)production of gender inequalities throughout migration and coupling remains largely untackled. How do these forms of ‘global love’ affect gender relations? Looking at heterosexual migrant-native couples in the UK, I consider the relationship between their experiences of migration and their sexual division of labour. I pay specific attention to the effect of institutionalization (marriage and children), and those of age and age at migration, known to play an important role in both migration paths and couples’ arrangements. The research uses data from Understanding Society and draws on the comparison with native British couples on the one hand, and migrant couples on the other. The findings point to migrant-native coupling as a type of mixing that results in singular patterns of gender relations in the home. Their case highlights the complex, deeply intersectional connections between migration and gender dynamics, and especially the importance of the timing of migration in the storyline of family formation. The analysis also makes very clear the methodological bearing and relevance of disaggregating migrants by sex. Indeed, migrant-native couples display stark differences of trajectories and gender relations based on who – woman or man – is the native and who the migrant partner.