Sociology Housework
Judith Treas, Anne Tatlock
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 November 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0099


Housework contributes to the broad project of social reproduction. Household labor perpetuates the social structures associated with family, gender, inequality and the labor force. Provisioning families and keeping up the household all fall under the general rubric of non-market labor, that is, the unpaid work that includes not only housework, but also caring for family members. Because this takes place outside public view and falls largely to women, the value of housework to families and society has often been overlooked or discounted. Until the middle of the 20th century, household labor received little scholarly attention outside the applied field of home economics. As female employment rates increased, however, men’s and women’s lives converged in the realm of paid work, raising questions about why change came more slowly to private households. Although men do more work around the house than their fathers did a generation ago, women still do the lion’s share, and some chores remain stubbornly stereotyped as “women’s work.” Indeed, the allocation of housework is a telling indicator of gender inequality in individual households and societies. Housework also reflects on class inequality, because high-income women can hire poor women to do the job. Domestic arrangements are the outcome of both micro-level family circumstances and macro-level cultural and structural forces. Gender attitudes, partners’ time constraints, their relative resources in bargaining over the chores, and the presence of children illustrate the micro-level influences on the volume and distribution of housework. Cross-national differences in domestic practices demonstrate that the characteristics of social institutions and social policies shape intimate domestic arrangements. How the housework is managed matters for marital relationships, personal well-being, individual careers and population processes. The demand for household labor has created a transnational labor force of domestic workers with implications for global inequality.

General Overviews

Coltrane 2000 offers an excellent introduction to the motivating theories and empirical findings on housework. Lachance-Grzela and Bouchard 2010 reviews more recent literature as the centerpiece of a feminist forum on promising new approaches. In Treas and Drobnič 2010, European and North American researchers advance a cross-national perspective with essays on historical, institutional, and cultural influences on household labor. Zimmerman, et al. 2006 places the supply of and demand for household workers in a transnational perspective.

  • Coltrane, Scott. 2000. Research on household labor: Modeling and measuring the social embeddedness of routine family work. Journal of Marriage and the Family 62:1208–1233.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.01208.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This thoughtful codification of issues is a valuable introduction to theoretical, methodological, and empirical directions in research.

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    • Lachance-Grzela, Mylene, and Genevieve Bouchard. 2010. Why do women do the lion’s share of housework? A decade of research. Sex Roles 63:767–780.

      DOI: 10.1007/s11199-010-9797-zSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A recent review from a feminist perspective considers individual-level influences on the division of housework as well as country-level factors and cross-level interactions.

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      • Treas, Judith, and Sonja Drobnič, eds. 2010. Dividing the domestic: Men, women, and household work in cross-national perspective. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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        International contributors analyze structural influences on housework, including employment patterns, state policies, and societal inequality, as well as cultural models that define marriage, family, and children.

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        • Zimmerman, Mary K., Jacquelyn S. Litt, and Christine E. Bose, eds. 2006. Global dimensions of gender and carework. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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          An ambitious look at changes in paid and unpaid domestic work and caring labor around the world. Highlights the transnational labor force addressing caregiving and homemaking dilemmas in wealthy nations.

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          Leading general sociology journals in the United States and Europe, including the American Sociological Review and the European Sociological Review, have published research on housework, often from a cross-national perspective. Another prominent outlet for housework research has been specialty journals on the family, such as Journal of Marriage and Family, Journal of Family Issues, and Journal of Comparative Family Studies. For thoughtful treatments of gender and housework, see specialty journals on gender such as Feminist Economics, Sex Roles, and Gender & Society.

          Theoretical Statements

          A male model of time allocation assumed choices between work and leisure until Mincer 1962 observed that women also choose to devote time to the home production of goods and services. Becker 1981’s New Home Economics justified gender specialization in terms of efficiency: mate selection and time allocation maximized household production and satisfaction. Friedan 1963 challenged popular beliefs that homemaking was a fulfilling activity for women. Feminist critiques of economic approaches pointed to an integrated system of gender domination, which placed women at a power disadvantage in marital exchange and housework negotiations, as described in Brines 1993. Berk 1985 and West and Zimmerman 1987 explore how women’s and men’s housework activities are central to constructing and maintaining “gender,” the taken-for-granted assumptions regarding sex differences. As Hochschild 1989 demonstrates, because the home lags the workplace in movement toward gender equality, housework is recognized as a major impediment to overall gender parity. According to Hartmann 1981, the roots of gender inequality transcend personal household dynamics to include the broader interests of class and the capitalist system.

          • Becker, Gary. 1981. A treatise on the family. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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            Becker’s pathbreaking “new home economics” applies neoclassical economics to analyze how men and women sort themselves into marriage and work.

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            • Berk, Sara Fenstermaker. 1985. The gender factory: The apportionment of work in American households. New York: Plenum.

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              A pioneering study arguing that women “do gender” when they “do housework”. Employed women spent more time on housework than their husbands did, but both were satisfied with this inequality given their gendered expectations.

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              • Brines, Julie. 1993. The exchange value of housework. Rationality and Society 5:302–340.

                DOI: 10.1177/1043463193005003003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                Introduces human capital, resource bargaining, and economic dependency explanations for the division of housework. The paradoxical association found between women’s resources and housework sparked a debate about “time availability” versus “doing gender” theories. (see Gupta 2007, cited under Relative Resources, Dependence, Exchange, and Bargaining).

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                • Friedan, Betty. 1963. The feminine mystique. New York: W. W. Norton.

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                  Provoked a feminist revolution by pointing to “the problem that had no name.” With gender norms limiting them to home and family, suburban housewives reported unhappiness with their lives.

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                  • Hartmann, Heidi. 1981. The family as the locus of gender, class, and political struggle: The example of housework. Signs 6:366–394.

                    DOI: 10.1086/493813Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                    Marxist feminist approach described the family as a site of conflict, given its role in production and redistribution.

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                    • Hochschild, Arlie R. 1989. The second shift. New York: Avon.

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                      Influential book addressing lingering housework inequities in the face of women’s rising employment. In an “economy of gratitude,” couples reconcile power and caring in terms of “gifts” given and sacrifices made.

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                      • Mincer, Jacob. 1962. The labor force participation of married women. In Aspects of Labor Economics. Edited by Universities–National Bureau Committee for Economic Research, 63–106. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                        The father of modern labor economics points to the value of housework with a model recognizing that married women allocate their time to market work, leisure, and home production, including housework and child care.

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                        • West, Candace, and Don Zimmerman. 1987. Doing gender. Gender & Society 1:125–151.

                          DOI: 10.1177/0891243287001002002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                          Following feminist, ethnomethodological, and social constructionist theories, gender is something that we create through activities like housework—a “routine, methodical and recurring accomplishment.”

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                          Concepts and Measures

                          Housework is the physical work of provisioning and maintaining the household. Distinguished from child care, housework may include budgeting and other household management responsibilities (see Yodanis and Lauer 2007 and Treas and Tai 2012, both cited under Household Management). Particular tasks fall mostly to women or mostly to men (Twiggs, et al. 1999, cited under Gender-Typed Tasks). The more demanding, female-typed chores (laundry, cooking) are routine and unremitting. Male-typed tasks (home repairs) are episodic, often discretionary, and sometimes recreational. Housework participation is measured as the absolute or relative contribution to total time or as a share of particular tasks. Absolute time in housework does not necessarily yield the same results as the percentage of housework performed (see Gupta 2007, cited under Relative Resources, Dependence, Exchange, and Bargaining). Data from time diaries or experimental sampling (activities recorded at random time prompts) are more accurate than survey estimates (Schulz and Grunow 2012 and Lee and Waite 2005, both cited under Measurement Issues). Biases are poorly understood; married men report doing more housework than is credited to husbands by their wives (Geist 2010, cited under Measurement Issues).

                          Household Management

                          Planning, coordinating, monitoring, and budgeting are necessary aspects of housework, but the intellectual and emotional work of household management is less studied than the physical labor. Erickson 2005 offers an exemplar for the study of emotion work, the household labor of interpersonal relationships that usually falls to women. Money management practices have implications for gender, power, and control. Yodanis and Lauer 2007 finds that both country characteristics and the characteristics of the partners determine whether they pool or separate their monies. Treas and Tai 2012 show that couples generally report joint decision making on spending, children, and leisure. Wives take charge when they earn more money than husbands, suggesting that they see management as offering desirable control over the household. Since men who take charge do less housework than other men, male household management seems to be a patriarchal legacy of traditional domestic arrangements.

                          • Erickson, Rebecca J. 2005. Why emotion work matters: Sex, gender, and the division of household labor. Journal of Marriage and Family 67:337–351.

                            DOI: 10.1111/j.0022-2445.2005.00120.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                            Emotion work to maintain family relationships requires customized effort. Falling to women, emotion work is overlooked because it is seen as love, not work, or as something women “are,” not something they “do.”

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                            • Treas, Judith, and Tsui-o Tai. 2012. How couples manage the household: Work and power in cross-national perspective. Journal of Family Issues 33.8: 1088–1116.

                              DOI: 10.1177/0192513X11426700Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                              Married people report joint decision making on children, weekend activities, and purchases. Supporting relative resource arguments, women take sole charge when their income is higher than the husband’s. Men’s management is negatively associated with their housework.

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                              • Yodanis, Carrie, and Sean Lauer. 2007. Economic inequality in and outside marriage: Individual resources and institutional context. European Sociological Review 23:573–583.

                                DOI: 10.1093/esr/jcm021Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                In nations with more state spending on social programs and less tolerance of inequality, couples tend to pool their incomes.

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                                Gender-Typed Tasks

                                Kan, et al. 2011 offers cross-national time use data to show that chores are sex-typed. Cultural norms carry weight in determining who does what around the house, even in very gender-egalitarian countries, as Evertsson 2006 shows. Some household chores (e.g., laundry, cleaning) are stereotyped as “women’s work” and other tasks (yard work) as “men’s work.” Twiggs, et al. 1999 argues that gender segregation in household chores is akin to gender segregation in occupations.

                                • Evertsson, Marie. 2006. The reproduction of gender: Housework and attitudes toward gender inequality at home among Swedish boys and girls. British Journal of Sociology 57:513–536.

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                                  Girls and boys engage in gender-atypical work if their same-sex parent does.

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                                  • Kan, Man Yee, O. Sullivan, and Jonathan I. Gershuny. 2011. Gender convergence in domestic work: Discerning the effects of interactional and institutional barriers from large-scale data. Sociology 45:234–251.

                                    DOI: 10.1177/0038038510394014Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                    Provides up-to-date evidence of gender segregation in routine and nonroutine household and caring work, using cross-national time diary data.

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                                    • Twiggs, Joan E., Julia McQuillan, and Myra Marx Ferree. 1999. Meaning and measurement: Reconceptualizing measures of the division of household labor. Journal of Marriage and the Family 61:712–724.

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                                      Some female-typed chores are more readily performed by men than are others. American men who prepare meals, the most female-typed task in the study, are more likely to perform all other female-typed chores too.

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                                      Measurement Issues

                                      Measures of housework are imperfect. Geist 2010 shows a discrepancy that holds cross-nationally: wives credit husbands with less housework than the men report. Lee and Waite 2005 uses alternative measures to show that women overstate their own housework. According to Kan and Pudney 2008, most error is random, but gender, age, and education bias time estimates of housework. Schulz and Grunow 2011 suggests ways to improve estimates.

                                      • Geist, Claudia. 2010. Men’s and women’s reports about housework. In Dividing the domestic: Men, women, and household work in cross-national perspective. Edited by Judith Treas and Sonja Drobnič, 217–240. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                        Across many nations, males’ and females’ reports of housework contributions differ, with the bigger gap for the reports on husbands’ housework.

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                                        • Kan, Man Yee, and Stephen Pudney. 2008. Measurement error in stylized and diary data on time use. Sociological Methodology 38:101–132.

                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9531.2008.00197.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                          Measurement error of stylized time use data is mostly random rather than systematic. Systematic error is associated with gender, age, and educational qualifications of respondents.

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                                          • Lee, Yun-Suk, and Linda J. Waite. 2005. Husbands’ and wives’ time spent in housework: A comparison of measures. Journal of Marriage and Family 67:328–336.

                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.0022-2445.2005.00119.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                            Suggesting that women may overestimate their housework, surveys lead to higher estimates of their time in housework than does the Experience Sampling Method, a randomly timed sample of activities.

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                                            • Schulz, Florian, and Daniela Grunow. 2012. Comparing diary and survey estimates on time use. European Sociological Review 28.5: 622–632.

                                              DOI: 10.1093/esr/jcr030Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                              Precisely defining the tasks that respondents report on improves the estimates of housework time.

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                                              Trends in the Division of Housework

                                              Gershuny 2000 shows that since the 1960s, women in developed countries have done less housework as their participation in paid work has increased. Bowden and Offer 1994 finds that labor-saving devices have reduced the physical demands of housework as well. Although Gershuny, et al. 1994 shows that men’s housework contributions have increased since the 1960s, this has not been enough to make up for women’s declines in housework, as documented by Bianchi, et al. 2006 and Gershuny 2000. According to Sayer 2010, as the overall time couples spent on housework chores decreased, men’s and women’s housework time converged, despite a 1980s stall in this equalizing trend. Geist and Cohen 2011 takes a comparative approach to show that countries that saw the greatest gender convergence after the 1980s had the most gender inequality in housework to start. Although mothers pulled back from housework, they have not reduced their time with children in the United States, as Bianchi, et al. 2006 demonstrates. Individual characteristics (e.g., marriage, parenthood, employment) have become weaker predictors of the division of household labor over time, according to both Artis and Pavalko 2003 and Sayer 2010.

                                              • Artis, Julie E., and Eliza K. Pavalko. 2003. Explaining the decline in women’s household labor: Individual change and cohort differences. Journal of Marriage and Family 65:746–761.

                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2003.00746.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                Controlling for demographic factors, women in more recent cohorts do less housework. Whatever their employment status, women now do less housework than women in earlier eras.

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                                                • Bianchi, Suzanne M., John P. Robinson, and Melissa A. Milkie. 2006. Changing rhythms of American family life. New York: Russell Sage.

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                                                  If women’s employment crowded out housework, it did not affect mothering. American women spent as much time with their children in 2000 as in 1965. Men spent more.

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                                                  • Bowden, Sue, and Avner Offer. 1994. Household appliances and the use of time: The United States and Britain since the 1920s. Economic History Review 67:725–748.

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                                                    “Time-using” appliances (e.g., televisions) enhancing the quality of leisure diffused more rapidly than “time-saving” ones (e.g., vacuum cleaners), reducing the burden of household labor.

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                                                    • Geist, Claudia, and Philip Cohen. 2011. Headed toward equality: Housework change in comparative perspective. Journal of Marriage and Family 73:832–844.

                                                      DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2011.00850.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                      Showing “cultural convergence,” traditional countries played “catch-up,” moving more quickly toward housework parity than already egalitarian nations.

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                                                      • Gershuny, Jonathan. 2000. Changing times: Work and leisure in postindustrial society. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                        Male and female time use converged in paid and unpaid work, consumption, and leisure. Over three decades, countries converged in how time is spent. Growing affluence led to less time in paid work.

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                                                        • Gershuny, Jonathan, Michael Godwin, and Sally Jones. 1994. The domestic labour revolution: A process of lagged adaptation. In The social and political economy of the household. Edited by Michael Anderson, Frank Bechofer, and Jonathan Gershuny, 151–197. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                          In a lagged adaptation in response to increased women’s labor force participation, couples are renegotiating household work—a change that takes years and even generations.

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                                                          • Sayer, Liana. 2010. Trends in housework. In Dividing the domestic: Men, women, and household work in cross-national perspective. Edited by Judith Treas and Sonja Drobnič, 19–38. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                            The gender gap in housework is influenced by collective understandings of gendered time use that depend on welfare state type. The positive association of marriage and motherhood with women’s housework weakened over time.

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                                                            Individual and Household Predictors

                                                            Housework arrangements depend on the characteristics of husbands, wives, and their households. Life course transitions in work, marriage, parenthood, and health status can prompt change in how housework is organized. Practical considerations—such as how much time each partner has available for housework—matter, too. Power and exchange explanations point to partners’ resources and dependencies affecting bargaining over chores. As feminists observe, housework is also a vehicle for acting out gender identities. Thus, gender attitudes are pivotal in determining who does the housework.

                                                            Family and Life Course Predictors

                                                            Major events in the life course affect the domestic workload and division of housework. Parental socialization has lasting effects. Penha-Lopes 2006 addresses how mothers socialize sons for domestic competence, and Cunningham 2001 considers how fathers model housework for sons. They show that childhood experiences with maternal employment lead to more egalitarian attitudes and practices in adulthood. When individuals pair off and start families, the consequence is often a more traditional division of household labor. Cross-nationally, Davis, et al. 2007 finds that cohabiting men do more housework and cohabiting women do less than their married counterparts. Baxter, et al. 2008 and Gupta 1999 find that in the United States, if not Australia, the transition from cohabitation to marriage leads to a reduction in men’s housework. Motherhood increases the hours that women devote to housework. According to Buhlmann, et al. 2009, a shift from fairly egalitarian domestic arrangements to less egalitarian ones at the birth of the first child is seen across countries. Perhaps because of their women-friendly social policies and gender egalitarian ethos, the Nordic social democracies see the least change in the division of labor with the birth of a child. The division of housework by sex emerges more strongly in countries that do not take a strong stand in favor of gender equality in the home and workplace. Although retirement might be expected to increase housework by increasing available time, retirement does not have much effect on men’s or women’s routine household tasks, as Solomon, et al. 2004 demonstrates. When wives become disabled, husbands are called on to increase their housework, according to Allen and Webster 2001.

                                                            • Allen, Susan M., and Pamela S. Webster. 2001. When wives get sick: Gender role attitudes, marital happiness, and husbands’ contribution to household labor. Gender & Society 15:898–916.

                                                              DOI: 10.1177/089124301015006007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              When their wives become impaired, men increase their share of housework more when they voice egalitarian gender ideologies.

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                                                              • Baxter, Janeen, Belinda Hewitt, and Michele Haynes. 2008. Life course transitions and housework: Marriage, parenthood, and time on housework. Journal of Marriage and Family 70:259–272.

                                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2008.00479.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                Becoming a mother increases Australian women’s housework hours. Men’s housework hours do not change with marriage or fatherhood, but separating from their partner increases their housework.

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                                                                • Bühlmann, Felix, Guy Elcheroth, and Manuel Tettamanti. 2009. The division of labor among European couples: The effects of life course and welfare policy on value-practice configurations. European Sociological Review 26:49–66.

                                                                  DOI: 10.1093/esr/jcp004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                  Couples adopt a less egalitarian division of labor when a child is born. Nordic social democracies maintain the most stable arrangements, perhaps owing to state childcare and other supportive policies.

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                                                                  • Cunningham, Mick. 2001. Parental influences on the gendered division of housework. American Sociological Review 66:184–203.

                                                                    DOI: 10.2307/2657414Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                    Having an egalitarian father in early childhood leads sons to do more housework in their own marriages, but parents do not much influence daughters’ division of housework.

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                                                                    • Davis, Shannon N., Theodore N. Greenstein, and Jennifer P. Gerteisen Marks. 2007. Effects of union type on household division of labor: Do cohabiting men really perform more housework? Journal of Family Issues 28:1246–1272.

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                                                                      Cohabitors have more egalitarian housework arrangements than married couples. Across nations, cohabiting men report doing more housework than married men. Cohabiting women report doing less than married women.

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                                                                      • Gupta, Sanjiv. 1999. The effects of marital status transitions on men’s housework performance. Journal of Marriage and the Family 61:700–711.

                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/353571Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                        When American men marry or cohabit, they reduce their housework time, but women increase their time when they enter unions.

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                                                                        • Penha-Lopes, Vania. 2006. “To cook, sew, and be a man”: The socialization for competence and Black men’s involvement in housework. Sex Roles 54:261–274.

                                                                          DOI: 10.1007/s11199-006-9343-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                          Black parents “socialize for competence,” training both boys and girls to do domestic tasks well. Black men are, thus, more egalitarian in attitudes and practice.

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                                                                          • Solomon, Catherine Richards, Alan C. Acock, and Alexis J. Walker. 2004. Gender ideology and investment in housework: Postretirement change. Journal of Family Issues 25:1050–1071.

                                                                            DOI: 10.1177/0192513X03261323Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            In the United States, egalitarian-thinking women are more likely than traditional ones to increase housework upon retirement. Overall, retirees do not do more housework despite more available time.

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                                                                            Time Availability

                                                                            To understand the division of labor, Coverman 1985 introduced the classic demand-response capability model, which directs attention not only to how much work is required to maintain a household, but also to the ability of partners to respond to household demands. That ability depends on the time available. Women do more housework than men, in part because women have more free time as a result of working fewer hours for pay. Stier and Lewin-Epstein 2000 demonstrates that part-time work requires fewer domestic accommodations than full-time. As Davis and Greenstein 2004 shows, when wives work longer hours, they do less housework while their husbands do more; when husbands work longer hours, they do less and their wives do more. Work schedules matter, too. As detailed by Presser 1994, American husbands take on more “women’s work” around the home when they work night or swing shifts and are home daytime while their wives are at work.

                                                                            • Coverman, Shelly. 1985. Explaining husband’s participation in domestic labor. Sociological Quarterly 26:181–197.

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                                                                              In the influential demand-response capability model, the demand for the husband’s participation reflects the amount of housework to be done. Response capability depends on his time available to help.

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                                                                              • Davis, Shannon N., and Theodore N. Greenstein. 2004. Cross-national variations in the division of household labor. Journal of Marriage and Family 66:1260–1271.

                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.0022-2445.2004.00091.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                Offering cross-national support for time availability and relative resource hypotheses, husbands do more housework when wives work full-time.

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                                                                                • Presser, Harriet B. 1994. Employment schedules among dual-earner spouses and the division of household labor by gender. American Sociological Review 59:348–364.

                                                                                  DOI: 10.2307/2095938Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  Many partners work different shifts. Husbands are more likely to do female-typed activities if they are home alone while the wife is at work.

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                                                                                  • Stier, Haya, and Noah Lewin-Epstein. 2000. Women’s part time employment and gender inequality in the family. Journal of Family Issues 21:390–410.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.1177/019251300021003006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    Israeli women employed full-time share more of the laundry and sick care, but not shopping or home repairs. Part-time workers are much like stay-at-home wives.

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                                                                                    Relative Resources, Dependence, Exchange, and Bargaining

                                                                                    Micro-level theories rooted in power and exchange perspectives assume that the allocation of housework is the outcome of bargaining or agreements between partners. To avoid burdensome housework, one partner offloads it to the partner in the weaker bargaining position. Because income is a resource conferring power, the wife earning more than her husband is expected to do less housework, as shown in Mannino and Deutsch 2007. Bittman, et al. 2003 finds that Australian women whose incomes exceed their husbands’ do more housework than otherwise expected, challenging relative resource arguments. Long described as a compensation for the violation of gender norms, these contrarian findings have recently been discounted by Sullivan 2011 and by Gupta 2007, which show that the results are due in part to how women’s income is measured. Baxter and Kane 1995 demonstrates that financial dependence on a male breadwinner promotes conservative gender attitudes, setting the stage for a traditional division of household labor. As Breen and Cooke 2005 argues provocatively, because wives with good employment prospects can make credible threats to divorce uncooperative husbands, they have a bargaining advantage, but husbands may not step up their efforts unless they hold egalitarian attitudes.

                                                                                    • Baxter, Janeen, and Emily W. Kane. 1995. Dependence and independence: A cross-national analysis of gender inequality and gender attitudes. Gender & Society 9:193–215.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.1177/089124395009002004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      The most gender-egalitarian beliefs are in Scandinavia, the least in the United States, with Canada and Australia in between. As women’s economic dependence on men increases, both men’s and women’s gender attitudes become more conservative.

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                                                                                      • Bittman, Michael, Paula England, Liana Sayer, Nancy Folbre, and George Matheson. 2003. When does gender trump money? Bargaining and time in household work. American Journal of Sociology 109:35–46.

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                                                                                        Consistent with relative resource arguments, some Australian women increase their housework as their share of household income rises, arguably to compensate for their deviation from breadwinner norms. American women, however, reduce their housework across the entire income range.

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                                                                                        • Breen, Richard, and Lynn Prince Cooke. 2005. The persistence of the gendered division of domestic labour. European Sociological Review 21:43–57.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/esr/jci003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          Following a “voice or exit” argument, men will do housework when women’s strong labor force position gives them the independence to make credible threats to divorce husbands not sharing chores. Men’s gender attitudes must also be sufficiently egalitarian that they are willing to do housework.

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                                                                                          • Gupta, Sanjiv. 2007. Autonomy, dependence, or display? The relationship between married women’s earnings and housework. Journal of Marriage and Family 69:399–417.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2007.00373.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            Contrary to the relative resource hypothesis, a wife’s higher absolute income, not her income relative to her husband’s, relates to less time spent on housework. Women who earn more than husbands tend to have low incomes, which could explain why they do more housework.

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                                                                                            • Mannino, Clelia Anna, and Francine M. Deutsch. 2007. Changing the division of household labor: A negotiated process between partners. Sex Roles 56:309–324.

                                                                                              DOI: 10.1007/s11199-006-9181-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                              Qualitative evidence supports the relative resource notion that women who earn more of the family’s income do a smaller share of the household work than women who earn less.

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                                                                                              • Sullivan, Oriel. 2011. An end to gender display through the performance of housework? A review and reassessment of the quantitative literature using insights from the qualitative literature. Journal of Family Theory and Review 3:1–13.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.1756-2589.2010.00074.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Evaluation of prior research calls into question relative resource explanations stressing compensation for gender deviance. Earlier work ignored women’s absolute earnings and pertained only to limited subgroups of men. Other scholars respond with companion pieces in the same issue.

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                                                                                                Gender Theory

                                                                                                Housework is usually assumed to be unpleasant, but DeVault 1991 emphasizes that women derive gratification from caring for their families. Gender construction theory, as detailed in Berk 1985 and West and Zimmerman 1987 (both cited under Theoretical Statements), views women’s housework as a display of feminine competence that maintains gender distinctions. Men “do gender” by avoiding female-typed chores. Arrighi and Maume 2000 shows that husbands with little job autonomy may compensate for unmanly subordination by doing less work at home. South and Spitze 1994 finds that women living with an “audience” of the opposite sex perform more housework than otherwise. For contrary evidence, see Gupta 2007 and Sullivan 2011 (cited under Relative Resources, Dependence, Exchange, and Bargaining). Liberal gender attitudes are linked to husbands’ doing more housework and wives’ doing less of the female-typed chores, according to Kroska 2004.

                                                                                                • Arrighi, Barbara A., and David J. Maume. 2000. Workplace subordination and men’s avoidance of housework. Journal of Family Issues 21:464–487.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1177/019251300021004003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  Perhaps compensating for workplace challenges to their masculinity, married men who have little independence on the job spend fewer hours in household labor.

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                                                                                                  • DeVault, Marge L. 1991. Feeding the family: The social organization of caring as gendered work. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                    The caring work involved in preparing meals for families is invisible, but considerable gratifying labor and skill goes into feeding a household.

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                                                                                                    • Kroska, Amy. 2004. Divisions of domestic work: Revising and expanding the theoretical explanations. Journal of Family Issues 7:900–932.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1177/0192513X04267149Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      When husbands and wives ascribe to egalitarian gender ideologies, women’s time in feminine and gender-neutral work is reduced.

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                                                                                                      • South, Scott J., and Glenna Spitze. 1994. Housework in marital and nonmarital households. American Sociological Review 59:327–347.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/2095937Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        Living with an “audience” of the other sex leads us to “do gender.” Women do more housework, and men do less. Divorced and widowed men do more than partnered men. Women living with a grown son do more housework than women living with a daughter.

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                                                                                                        Ideologies, Attitudes, and Preferences

                                                                                                        More liberal gender attitudes translate into greater parity in the division of household labor. Both partners’ views matter, because husbands must be willing to take on housework and women must be comfortable sharing it. Liberalization of men’s attitudes is the key to household gender parity, according to Greenstein 1996. Poortman and van der Lippe 2009 shows that attitudes toward housework are associated with doing housework. Women do more housework than men in part because they find housework more enjoyable. Attitudes differ cross-nationally, even between two Nordic social democracies, Norway and Sweden, as detailed in Bernhardt, et al. 2008. Consistent with the idea that men’s involvement is increasingly expected, individual attitudes are playing a less important role in the division of housework over time, as Crompton, et al. 2005 demonstrates.

                                                                                                        • Bernhardt, Eva, Turid Noack, and Torkild Hovde Lyngstad. 2008. Shared housework in Norway and Sweden: Advancing the gender revolution. Journal of European Social Policy 18:275–288.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1177/0958928708091060Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          In Nordic states, policies reduce reliance on family, but Swedish and Norwegian couples think about housework differently. Swedes are more egalitarian in belief and practice, perhaps because of a longer legacy of gender-egalitarian norms “institutionalized” in public policies.

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                                                                                                          • Crompton, Rosemary, Michaela Brockmann, and Clare Lyonette. 2005. Attitudes, women’s employment, and the domestic division of labor: A cross-national analysis in two waves. Work, Employment, and Society 19:213–233.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1177/0950017005053168Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            Between 1994 and 2002, attitudes became less important to the division of housework in Norway and the United States, but not in the Czech Republic, which was undergoing a transition from socialism.

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                                                                                                            • Greenstein, Theodore. 1996. Husbands’ participation in domestic labor: Interactive effects of wives’ and husbands’ gender ideologies. Journal of Marriage and the Family 58:585–595.

                                                                                                              DOI: 10.2307/353719Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              Husbands do little domestic labor overall unless both they and their wives have egalitarian beliefs about gender and marital roles.

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                                                                                                              • Poortman, Anne-Rigt, and Tanja van der Lippe. 2009. Attitudes toward housework and child care and the gendered division of labor. Journal of Marriage and Family 71:526–541.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2009.00617.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                Men and women who say household tasks are enjoyable spend more time doing them than other people do. Women enjoy doing housework more than men, leading women to take on more of the household labor.

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                                                                                                                Special Groups

                                                                                                                The unique experiences of special groups offer fresh perspectives. Given their distinctive historical experience, African Americans share chores more equally than their White counterparts, according to Kamo and Cohen 1998. Pinto and Coltrane 2009 shows that Mexican American mothers, particularly immigrants, devote more time to housework than Anglos, owing to differences in cultural values, resources, and time constraints. According to Ellison and Bartkowski 2002, conservative Protestant women in the United States also do more housework than other women, consistent with traditional gender attitudes. Living together presses heterosexual couples toward traditional domestic arrangements. Same-sex couples face the same domestic demands, but their household practices are not based on patriarchal power or cultural expectations to specialize by gender. Both gay and lesbian couples say they share housework equally, as shown by Kurdek 2007. In line with “doing gender,” however, Moore 2008 reports that lesbians who identify as more feminine do more of the “women’s work” around the house.

                                                                                                                • Ellison, Christopher G., and John P. Bartkowski. 2002. Conservative Protestantism and the division of household labor among married couples. Journal of Family Issues 23:950–985.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1177/019251302237299Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  Having less education and more traditional gender attitudes, conservative Protestant women average four to five more hours per week than other women on female-typed housework. Men’s religious affiliation does not affect their housework.

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                                                                                                                  • Kamo, Yoshinori, and Ellen L. Cohen. 1998. Division of household work between partners: A comparison of black and white couples. Journal of Comparative Family Studies 29:131–145.

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                                                                                                                    Black couples divide housework more equally than whites. This egalitarian division of household labor may reflect cultural strategies to adapt to historical conditions of slavery and racial disadvantage.

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                                                                                                                    • Kurdek, Lawrence. 2007. The allocation of household labor by partners in gay and lesbian couples. Journal of Family Issues 28:132–148.

                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1177/0192513X06292019Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      Gays and lesbians report an equal division of household labor. Lesbians perform the same tasks together, but gay partners are more likely to divide household duties.

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                                                                                                                      • Moore, Mignon. 2008. Gendered power relations among women: A study of household decision making in black, lesbian stepfamilies. American Sociological Review 73:225–356.

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                                                                                                                        Regardless of whether or not lesbian women have children, women who identified as more feminine spent more time on female-typed chores. Biological mothers had more influence over child-rearing decisions than adoptive mothers.

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                                                                                                                        • Pinto, Katy M., and Scott Coltrane. 2009. Divisions of labor in Mexican origin and Anglo families: Structure and culture. Sex Roles 60:482–495.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1007/s11199-008-9549-5Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          Mexican immigrant mothers have higher housework standards and a stronger preference for gendered roles than US-born Mexican Americans and others. Although Mexican American mothers spend more time on housework than Anglos, Mexicans and Anglos respond similarly to practical demands (e.g., time constraints, resources).

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                                                                                                                          Institutional Context

                                                                                                                          Although the differences in domestic arrangements within countries are greater than those between countries, cross-national differences point to the ways in which the broader social context influences the organization of the household. The extent of gender inequality outside the home, the nature of the employment system, the public policies pursued, and the characteristics of the family institution all shape the household division of labor.

                                                                                                                          Systems of Gender Inequality

                                                                                                                          The division of household labor reflects a multilevel, integrated system of gender inequality. For nations, the extent of gender inequality is captured by the UN Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM), gauging how closely women match men’s pay, occupations, and political power. Fuwa 2004 demonstrates that in societies with less gender empowerment, husbands do not participate in female-typed chores as much as they do elsewhere. Knudson and Waerness 2008 reports that women’s bargaining resources (e.g., employment) are discounted to a greater extent in societies that do not empower women, limiting their ability to leverage their resources to bargain out of housework. Women’s hours in housework decrease with increases in GEM, which has a stronger influence on women’s domestic time. Societal gender egalitarianism also buffers the effects of high female labor force participation on marital conflicts, according to Ruppanner 2010.

                                                                                                                          • Fuwa, Makiko. 2004. Macro-level gender inequality and the division of household labor in 22 countries. American Sociological Review 69:751–767.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1177/000312240406900601Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            Women’s bargaining resources count for less in gender inegalitarian societies. Countries with a more liberal gender ideology and greater incorporation of women in the public sphere divide housework more equally. Influential article shows country characteristics influencing micro-level effects.

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                                                                                                                            • Knudsen, Knud and Kari Waerness. 2008. National context and spouse’s housework in 34 countries. European Sociological Review 24:97–113.

                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1093/esr/jcm037Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              As gender empowerment increases, the time women spend on housework decreases. Women’s housework contributions are influenced by gender empowerment, men’s by GDP, indicating that national context affects men and women differently.

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                                                                                                                              • Ruppanner, Leah E. 2010. Cross-national reports of housework: An investigation of the Gender Empowerment Measure. Social Science Research 39:963–975.

                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2010.04.002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                European couples report the least conflict over housework where gender empowerment and female labor force participation are higher.

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                                                                                                                                National labor markets influence women’s employment and, ultimately, their housework, which Siegel 1998 notes has been defined by law as unpaid labor. Van der Lippe 2010 shows that female labor force participation reduces women’s housework, although part-time employment accommodates family responsibilities. The rise in female employment explains increases in the time men devote to housework, as Hook 2006 demonstrates. Hook 2010 reports that longer workweeks permitted by labor laws lead to more gender-typing of household tasks. Where employment hours are long, men leave the time-inflexible “women’s work” to wives. Labor market characteristics that encourage women’s continuous employment lead them to reduce their household responsibilities. According to Iversen and Rosenbluth 2006, women’s domestic workload is minimized in countries that have women-friendly employment regimes offering part-time jobs, labor markets not demanding specialized training, and government jobs favoring women’s general skills. Cultural views influence domestic arrangements via employment. Thebaud 2010 shows that where cultural norms place a strong value on employment and high incomes, expectations for male breadwinning are high, so men are less likely to take on housework.

                                                                                                                                • Hook, Jennifer L. 2006. Care in context: Men’s unpaid work in 20 countries. American Sociological Review 71:639–660.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1177/000312240607100406Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  During the period 1965–2003, men increased their unpaid work time. Where women spend more time in the labor market, men’s unpaid work increased.

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                                                                                                                                  • Hook, Jennifer L. 2010. Gender inequality in the welfare state: Sex segregation in housework, 1965–2003. American Journal of Sociology 115:1480–1523.

                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1086/651384Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    Paternal leave policies and public child care both reduce women’s time in time-inflexible chores. Long parental leaves and long workweeks translate into men doing less and women doing more time-inflexible housework.

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                                                                                                                                    • Iversen, Torben, and Frances Rosenbluth. 2006. The political economy of gender: Explaining cross-national variation in the gender division of labor and the gender voting gap. American Journal of Political Science 50:1–19.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2006.00166.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      Women’s employment reduces their housework. Besides part-time work, women benefit from labor markets that favor general skills. Given discontinuous work histories, women are reluctant to invest in specialized training. Public sector employment in social and personal services buffer specialized training demands.

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                                                                                                                                      • Siegel, Reva B. 1998. Valuing housework: Nineteenth-century anxieties about the commodification of domestic labor. American Behavioral Scientist 41:1437–1451.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/0002764298041010005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        Refusing to equate women’s housework with men’s market work, courts from the 1800s have left women uncompensated for household labor.

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                                                                                                                                        • Thebaud, Sarah. 2010. Masculinity, bargaining, and breadwinning: Understanding men’s housework in the cultural context of paid work. Gender & Society 24:330–354.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1177/0891243210369105Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          This study points to the cultural emphasis on men’s breadwinning role. In nations with a stronger commitment to men’s paid work, men do fewer hours of household work.

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                                                                                                                                          • van der Lippe, Tanja. 2010. Women’s employment and housework. In Dividing the domestic: Men, women, and household work in cross-national perspective. Edited by Judith Treas and Sonja Drobnič, 41–58. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                            A wife’s employment hours decrease her housework with little effect on her husband’s. In Nordic, English-speaking, and Asian countries, full-time homemakers do only a little more housework than wives working part-time; the gap is larger in Mediterranean, post-socialist, and Latin American nations.

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                                                                                                                                            States and Policy Influences

                                                                                                                                            With the rise of the nation-state, public policies were adopted that played out in the household. A capitalist welfare state typology reveals cross-national differences in the division of housework that map to policy approaches, as shown by Geist 2005 as well as Kan, et al. 2011. Greater gender equality in housework is seen in Nordic social democracies committed to equality and in laissez-faire liberal states such as the United States. With tax, welfare, and employment policies bolstering the breadwinner-homemaker arrangement, women in conservative social welfare states (e.g., Germany) do more housework. Despite common approaches, such as those described by Pfau-Effinger 2010, differences in policy developments mean differences exist even between countries with similar welfare approaches (Cooke 2010). Policies do not act in isolation. “Family regimes”—packages of policies, institutions, and cultural ideologies—have multiple effects, as Cooke and Baxter 2010 shows. Fuwa and Cohen 2007 demonstrates that the absence of discriminatory employment regulations is associated with greater gender equality in unpaid work. Flexible, family-friendly workplace policies have little effect on the division of housework, perhaps because they allow women to balance work and home without altering domestic roles (Noonan, et al. 2007). Windebank 2001 questions why substantial national policy differences do not result in greater divergence in domestic arrangements. Dex 2010 asks whether states can really effect much change in the organization of household labor.

                                                                                                                                            • Cooke, Lynn Prince. 2010. The politics of housework. In Dividing the domestic: Men, women, and household work in cross-national perspective. Edited by Judith Treas and Sonja Drobnič, 59–78. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                              Three “liberal” welfare states—the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia—show that idiosyncratic policies lead to different employment outcomes and housework arrangements. Policies restricting women’s access to the labor market invite unequal divisions of housework.

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                                                                                                                                              • Cooke, Lynn Prince, and Janeen Baxter. 2010. Families in international context: Comparing institutional effects across Western societies. Journal of Marriage and Family 72:516–536.

                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2010.00716.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                A thoughtful overview of national policies influencing family formation and the gendered division of household labor. Different “family regimes” or sets of policies, ideologies, and institutions, lead to different fertility, cohabitation, single-parenthood, and housework outcomes.

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                                                                                                                                                • Dex, Shirley. 2010. Can state policies produce equality in housework? In Dividing the domestic: Men, women, and household work in cross-national perspective. Edited by Judith Treas and Sonja Drobnič, 79–104. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                  Even governments promoting workplace gender equality neglect equality at home. Policies have had limited effect because the causes of domestic inequality are complex, women may not want total parity, and men cannot be forced to “care.”

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                                                                                                                                                  • Fuwa, Makiko, and Philip N. Cohen. 2007. Housework and social policy. Social Science Research 36:512–530.

                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2006.04.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    Where nations do not prohibit certain kinds of employment for women and where long parental leaves are offered, the division of housework is more equal.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Geist, Claudia. 2005. The welfare state and the home: Regime differences in the domestic division of labor. European Sociological Review 21:23–41.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1093/esr/jci002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      Controlling for time availability, relative resources, and gender ideology, there are still significant differences between capitalist welfare regimes. Nordic social democracies and liberal welfare states like the United States show a more equal division of housework.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Kan, Man Yee, O. Sullivan, and Jonathan I. Gershuny. 2011. Gender convergence in domestic work: Discerning the effects of interactional and institutional barriers from large-scale data. Sociology 45:234–251.

                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/0038038510394014Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        Policy regime clusters have an effect on the pace of gender convergence on the division of domestic labor.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Noonan, Mary C., Sarah Beth Estes, and Jennifer L. Glass. 2007. Do workplace flexibility policies influence time spent in domestic labor? Journal of Family Issues 28:263–288.

                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1177/0192513X06292703Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                          When wives take advantage of flexible scheduling, they do less housework and their husbands do more, but shorter hours and working at home do little to equalize the couple’s housework.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Pfau-Effinger, Birgit. 2010. Cultural and institutional contexts. In Dividing the domestic: Men, women, and household work in cross-national perspective. Edited by Judith Treas and Sonja Drobnič, 125–146. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                            A useful typology shows that European societies take three basic approaches to the organization of work and child care. Formal childcare promotes the egalitarian dual-earner model.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Windebank, Jan. 2001. Dual-earner couples in Britain and France: Gender divisions of domestic labour and parenting work in different welfare states. Work, Employment and Society 15:269–290.

                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/09500170122118959Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              France offers more supportive policies for employed mothers than does Britain, but mothers in both countries assume primary responsibility for caring for sick children, even when both partners are employed.

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                                                                                                                                                              Family Institutions

                                                                                                                                                              From society to society, the organization of domestic labor is influenced by the conventions for couples’ relationships, as well as by the broader institution of the family. For Germany, Rohler and Huinink 2010 shows East-West differences in how couples relate to one another play out in housework. Compared to married couples, cohabitors divide housework more equally than married persons; couples living where cohabitation is common are more egalitarian, regardless of personal cohabitation experience, according to Batalova and Cohen 2002. Cultural expectations have changed as ideals for marriage evolved from relations based on practical advantages to marriages based on intimacy. Yodanis 2010 demonstrates that husbands and wives are more likely to share the chores in cultures emphasizing intimacy. Intimacy between partners is, in part, a function of the extended kin network. Treas 2011 notes that where kin are tight-knit, wives are less likely to prefer their husband over other family members for occasional help around the house.

                                                                                                                                                              • Batalova, Jeanne A., and Philip Cohen. 2002. Premarital cohabitation and housework: Couples in cross-national perspective. Journal of Marriage and Family 64:743–755.

                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2002.00743.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                Regardless of whether they themselves cohabited, couples share housework more equally if they live where cohabitation is common.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Rohler, Karl Alexander, and Johannes Huinink. 2010. Pair relationships and housework. In Dividing the domestic: Men, women, and household work in cross-national perspective. Edited by Judith Treas and Sonja Drobnič, 192–213. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                  In Germany, “affectual-associative” couples downplay gender roles to share housework equally. While accommodating women’s employment demands, “affectual-traditional” couples in the East still organize housework along traditional gender lines. In the West with its individualistic values, “affectual-pragmatic” partners pursue personal preferences.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Treas, Judith. 2011. Revisiting the Bott thesis on kin networks and marriage. Social Science Research 40:716–726.

                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2010.12.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                    Tight-knit kinship networks foster gender segregation in marriage. Controlling for residential mobility separating women from kin, women with tight-knit kin are less likely to say they prefer husbands for occasional household help.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Yodanis, Carrie. 2010. The institution of marriage. In Dividing the domestic: Men, women, and household work in cross-national perspective. Edited by Judith Treas and Sonja Drobnič, 175–191. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                      In countries where marital ideals stress intimacy, couples are more likely to share housework.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Substitutes for Household Labor

                                                                                                                                                                      To cope with the domestic workload, households rely on kin, purchased goods and services, and labor-saving appliances.

                                                                                                                                                                      Other Family Members’ Housework

                                                                                                                                                                      As Gager, et al. 2009 reports, children’s chores reduce parents’ domestic burden. Historical shifts to smaller households, however, mean they contain fewer adult women to share the housework than in the 19th century, as Short, et al. 2006 demonstrates. An exception is immigrant families. Treas and Mazumdar 2004 observes that older immigrants often provide childcare and housekeeping for their grown children, and research by Spitze 1999 finds that living nearby makes kin help more likely.

                                                                                                                                                                      • Gager, Constance T., Laura A. Sanchez, and Alfred Demaris. 2009. Whose time is it? The effect of employment and work/family stress on children’s housework. Journal of Family Issues 30:1459–1485.

                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/0192513X09336647Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        Contrary to time availability logic, children with jobs or extracurricular activities spend more time on housework than other youngsters. By making housework contributions, children alleviate some of their parents’ workload.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Short, Susan E., Frances K. Goldscheider, and Berna M. Torr. 2006. Less help for mother: The decline in coresidential female support for the mothers of young children, 1880–2000. Demography 43:617–629.

                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1353/dem.2006.0038Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                          As mothers, sisters, and other women became less likely to live with mothers, American households lost a valuable source of household assistance.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Spitze, Glenna. 1999. Getting help with housework: Household resources and social networks. Journal of Family Issues 20:724–745.

                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1177/019251399020006001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                            Informal (family) help is more common than formal (paid) help. Women living alone receive the most help, and married couples the least. Higher income increases formal help, while having adult children nearby increases informal help.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Treas, Judith, and Shampa Mazumdar. 2004. Caregiving and kinkeeping: Contributions of older people to America’s immigrant families. Journal of Comparative Family Studies 35:105–122.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Older immigrants do housekeeping and babysitting for their grown children. Cooking and other activities preserve family traditions and ethnic culture.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Treas and de Ruijter 2008 shows that employed women use their earnings to hire help. Baxter, et al. 2009 finds that women’s longer work hours translate into more outsourcing, but attitudes are also important to the decision to hire help. According to Killewald 2011, outsourcing does not greatly reduce women’s household labor, but it may fend off a decline in housekeeping standards or protect husbands from additional housework demands. Baxter, et al. 2009 points out that husbands turn to outsourcing when a wife’s poor health limits her housekeeping. Of course, outsourcing is not only an option for busy, two-earner couples, but also for egalitarian cohabitors and for singles lacking skills and motivation for the chores of the other sex, as found by de Ruijter, et al. 2005. Duffy 2007 notes that outsourcing housework depends on a poorly paid labor force, which Bowman and Cole 2009 argues raises ethical questions about this private solution to family time binds.

                                                                                                                                                                              • Baxter, Janeen, Belinda Hewitt, and Mark Western. 2009. Who uses paid domestic labor in Australia? Choice and constraint in hiring household help. Feminist Economics 15:1–26.

                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1080/13545700802248989Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                Men’s and women’s attitudes to employing paid help, not just whether they need or can afford to hire helpers, are major determinants of who uses paid help.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Bowman, John R., and Alyson M. Cole. 2009. Do working mothers oppress other women? The Swedish “maid debate” and the welfare state politics of gender equality. Signs 35:157–184.

                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1086/599289Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                  A proposed tax break for employing household labor launched a debate on the ethics of affluent Swedish households’ outsourcing their cleaning to disadvantaged workers.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • de Ruijter, Esther, Judith Treas, and Philip N. Cohen. 2005. Outsourcing the gender factory: Living arrangements and service expenditures on female and male tasks. Social Forces 84:306–322.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Outsourcing expenditures for married and cohabiting couples are much alike. Single women spend more money than single men on “men’s work” but the same to replace “women’s work” around the house.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • de Ruijter, Esther, Tanja van der Lippe, and Werner Raub. 2003. Trust problems in household outsourcing. Rationality and Society 15:473–507.

                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1177/1043463103154003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                      Trust in potential employees explains whether households employ outside help. Factors discouraging outsourcing are identified.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Duffy, Mignon. 2007. Doing the dirty work: Gender, race, and reproductive labor in historical perspective. Gender & Society 21:313–336.

                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/0891243207300764Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                        Clustered in physical and caregiving occupations for the past century, minority women in the United States are over-represented in cooking and cleaning jobs in both private households and institutions.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Killewald, Alexandra. 2011. Opting out and buying out: Wives’ earnings and housework time. Journal of Marriage and Family 73:459–471.

                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2010.00818.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                          An increase in wives’ earnings translates to only a modest reduction in their cooking and cleaning.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Treas, Judith, and Esther de Ruijter. 2008. Earnings and expenditures on household services in married and cohabiting unions. Journal of Marriage and Family 70:796–805.

                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2008.00522.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                            Wives’ earnings matter more than husbands’ for spending on female tasks, suggesting that employed women use earnings to keep up with the housekeeping.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            Time-Saving Appliances

                                                                                                                                                                                            How much time is saved by “labor-saving” appliances is not known. According to Bittman, et al. 2004, Australian men who own a dishwasher do less housework than those who do not, but owning this appliance is not associated with women’s housework. Women with an electric dryer paradoxically spend more time on laundry. Of course, Gershuny 2004 observes that households having, say, a dishwasher will differ in many other ways from households that do not. Vanek 1974 interpreted historical data to argue that the initial diffusion of household appliances increased women’s housework by ratcheting up standards for cleanliness. According to Heisig 2011, cross-nationally, the diffusion of household appliances reduces time use inequality between rich and poor. Silva 2000 observes that household technologies may reinforce or challenge gender stereotypes about household labor.

                                                                                                                                                                                            • Bittman, Michael, James Mahmud Rice, and Judy Wajcman. 2004. Appliances and their impact: The ownership of domestic technology and time spent on household work. British Journal of Sociology 55:401–442.

                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-4446.2004.00026.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                              Dryers actually increase the time Australian women spend on laundry. Microwaves and dishwashers do not relieve them of housework. Ironically, men benefit the most.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Gershuny, Jonathan I. 2004. Domestic equipment does not increase domestic work: A response to Bittman, Rice and Wajcman. British Journal of Sociology 55.3:425–431.

                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-4446.2004.00027.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                Gershuny offers thoughtful commentary and some counter-evidence to Bittman, et al. 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Heisig, Jan Paul. 2011. Who does more housework: Rich or poor? A comparison of 33 countries. American Sociological Review 76:74–99.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1177/0003122410396194Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                  The poor spend more time on housework than their richer counterparts, presumably because they cannot afford labor-saving appliances or paid help. This housework gap is larger in nations with greater income inequality and limited access to appliances.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Silva, Elizabeth B. 2000. The cook, the cooker, and the gendering of the kitchen. Sociological Review 48:612–628.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1111/1467-954X.00235Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                    According to a content analysis of user manuals, cultural scripts for operating the oven and the microwave reinforce gender stereotypes, but women do actively negotiate these scripts to remain central to food production.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Vanek, Joann. 1974. Time spent in housework. Scientific American 231:116–120.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1038/scientificamerican1174-116Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                      This provocative classic argues the amount of time spent in housework was relatively constant in the United States between 1926 and the mid-20th century—despite the diffusion of household appliances.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      Housework and its division prove to be consequential for the individual in terms of economic and subjective well-being, and for the family in terms of fertility and the quality of couples’ relationships.


                                                                                                                                                                                                      Ironically, nations with high levels of full-time homemaking now register some of the lowest fertility rates in the developed world. Male involvement in unpaid labor predicts fertility. According to Torr and Short 2004, American couples who divide the housework more equally are more likely to have a second child. In Australia, where both men and women have high domestic workloads, women’s absolute housework time, not their share of housework, deters second births, as detailed in Craig and Siminski 2010. Cooke 2004 finds that a German father’s participation in childcare, but not housework, raises the likelihood that a couple will have a second child.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Cooke, Lynn Prince. 2004. The gendered division of labor and family outcomes in Germany. Journal of Marriage and Family 66:1246–1259.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1111/j.0022-2445.2004.00090.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                        When German fathers are more involved in childcare, there is a higher probability of having a second child.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Craig, Lyn, and Peter Siminski. 2010. Men’s housework, women’s housework, and second births in Australia. Social Politics 17:235–266.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/sp/jxq004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                          When Australian mothers spend more time on housework, their odds of having a second child are lower; husbands’ housework hours do not matter.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Torr, Berna Miller, and Susan E. Short. 2004. Second births and the second shift: A research note on gender equity and fertility. Population and Development Review 30:109–130.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1728-4457.2004.00005.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                            In the United States, the probability of having a second birth is high regardless of the division of household labor, but couples who divide housework evenly are more likely to have a second child.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            Marital Quality and Divorce

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Despite gender inequality in household labor, reports Baxter 2000, most couples see their domestic arrangements as fair. Gender egalitarian beliefs raise the bar for justice, creating couples’ conflict over housework, but Ruppanner 2010 shows that country characteristics determine whether unequal burdens lead to open disagreements. According to Frisco and Williams 2003, seeing housework as unfair is associated with lower marital quality and even divorce. Cooke 2006 cautions that whether inequality in housework leads to divorce depends on a country’s cultural norms.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Baxter, Janeen. 2000. The joys and justice of housework. Sociology 34:609–631.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              In Australia, both sexes see women’s disproportionate housework responsibilities as fair. Women’s perceptions of fairness depend on their husbands’ participating in female-typed chores.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Cooke, Lynn Prince. 2006. ‘Doing’ gender in context: household bargaining and the risk of divorce in Germany and the United States. American Journal of Sociology 112:442–472.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1086/506417Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Meeting cultural expectations stabilizes marriage. Traditional male-breadwinner families are not likely to divorce in Germany. In the United States, where dual earners are the norm, housework parity is linked to greater marital stability.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Frisco, Michelle L., and Kristi Williams. 2003. Perceived housework equity, marital happiness, and divorce in dual-earner households. Journal of Family Issues 24:51–73.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1177/0192513X02238520Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  In dual-earner couples, seeing housework as unfair is associated with lower marital quality for both husbands and wives. Only wives’ negative evaluations of fairness raise the likelihood of divorcing.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Ruppanner, Leah. 2010. Conflict and housework: Does country context matter? European Sociological Review 26:557–570.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1093/esr/jcp038Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Couples report the least amount of housework conflict where female labor force participation and gender egalitarianism are high. There is more conflict where women’s employment is high but gender egalitarianism is low.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Subjective Well-Being

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    As a major claim on our time, housework may well have effects on physical health and subjective well-being. Although popular opinion is divided on the issue, full-time homemakers enjoy only a slight advantage in happiness over wives employed full-time, according to Treas, et al. 2011. Bird 1999 finds that household inequality in housework may contribute to depression, however. According to Offer and Schneider 2011, part of the problem is that women’s household labor involves stressful multitasking. Lawlor, et al. 2002 asserts that the implications of housework for physical health are mixed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Bird, Chloe E. 1999. Gender, household labor and psychological distress: The impact of the amount and division of housework. Journal of Health and Social Behavior 40:32–45.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/2676377Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Inequality in the division of household labor is more important for psychological distress than the actual amount of hours spent doing housework. The fact that men experience less depression than women is partly explained by their lower contribution to housework.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Lawlor, D. A., M. Taylor, C. Bedford, and S. Ebrahim. 2002. Is housework good for health? Levels of physical activity and factors associated with activity in elderly women; Results from the British Women’s Heart and Health Study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 56:473–478.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1136/jech.56.6.473Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Heavy housework is the major reason older women meet recommended standards for physical exercise, but housework is not associated with healthy weight or heart rate, perhaps because housework effort is over-reported.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Offer, Shira, and Barbara Schneider. 2011. Revisiting the gender gap in time-use patterns: Multitasking and well-being among mothers and fathers in dual-earner families. American Sociological Review 76:809–833.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1177/0003122411425170Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Women spend a great deal of time multitasking on housework and childcare. A measurement challenge, multitasking also explains why women report more psychological distress than men.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Treas, Judith, Tanja van der Lippe, and Tsui-o Tai. 2011. The happy homemaker? Married women’s subjective well-being in cross-national perspective. Social Forces 90:111–132.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1093/sf/90.1.111Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Across twenty-eight nations, full-time homemakers are happier than wives employed full-time, but country characteristics (e.g., higher GDP, public child care) level the playing field to reduce the homemaker’s happiness advantage over full-time workers.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Economic Well-Being

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Despite its value, most housework is unpaid, as detailed in Ferber and Birnbaum 1980. Home production of essential goods and services adds to household well-being. Folbre, et al. 2009 shows that economically disadvantaged households can compensate for low incomes by spending more time in productive household labor, but this leads to inequality in work and leisure. Put simply, rich women spend less time in housework than poor women, as Gupta, et al. 2010 demonstrates. Both Hersch and Stratton 2002 and Lincoln 2008 find that women’s housework depresses their wages, but not necessarily men’s, by distracting from activities that raise job productivity. Married men get paid a wage premium, but this is not because their wives take on more housework.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Ferber, Marianne A., and Bonnie G. Birnbaum. 1980. Housework: Priceless or valueless? Review of Income and Wealth 26:387–400.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4991.1980.tb00174.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A classic article compares two ways of calculating the value of household work. Estimated values based on the market cost of replacing the housewife’s services are preferred to estimates based on what she could earn if she traded housework time for paid employment.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Folbre, Nancy, Cordelia Reimers, and Jayoung Yoon. 2009. Making do and getting by: Non-market work and elderly women’s standards of living in the United States. Journal of Women, Politics & Policy 30:198–221.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1080/15544770902901734Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Older people reduce their paid work and increase their leisure time at retirement. Housework increases only slightly overall, but single women compensate for lower incomes by doing more unpaid work.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Gupta, Sanjiv, Marie Evertsson, Daniela Grunow, Magnus Nermo, and Liana C. Sayer. 2010. Economic inequality and housework. In Dividing the domestic: Men, women, and household work in cross-national perspective. Edited by Judith Treas and Sonja Drobnič, 105–122. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  In Germany, Sweden, and the United States, women in the top 10 percent of earnings do less housework than women in the bottom 10 percent. The gap is largest in the United States, where earnings inequality is greatest.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Hersch, Joni, and Leslie S. Stratton. 2002. Housework and wages. Journal of Human Resources 37:217–229.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.2307/3069609Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    In the United States, housework, especially female-typed tasks, has a negative effect on wages, regardless of marital status. Housework explains 14 percent of the gender wage gap.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Lincoln, Anne E. 2008. Gender, productivity, and the marital wage premium. Journal of Marriage and Family 70:806–814.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2008.00523.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Arguments for the gains to gender specialization find little support, suggesting that married men’s wage advantage over bachelors is not related to the gendered division of housework.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Workforce Globalization

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The demand for household labor plays out across the globe by creating a trans-national work force, according to both Anderson 2000 and Parreñas 2001. Misra, et al. 2006 and Yodanis and Lauer 2005 find that state polices shape these employment patterns.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Anderson, Bridget. 2000. Doing the dirty work? The global politics of domestic labour. London: Zed.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The labor force participation of women in the global North creates racialized demand for domestic help by women from the global South.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Misra, Joya, Jonathan Woodring, and Sabine Merz. 2006. The globalization of care work: Neoliberal economic restructuring and migration policy. Globalizations 3:317–332.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1080/14747730600870035Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Two “sending” and two “receiving” countries show how neoliberal policies promote the internationalization of care work. Minority care workers relieve states of responsibility for meeting family needs.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Parreñas, Rhacel Salazar. 2001. Servants of globalization: Women, migration and domestic work. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Interviews detail the lives of migrant Filipinas who do the domestic and caretaking work in the global economy.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Yodanis, Carrie, and Sean Lauer. 2005. Foreign visitor, exchange student, or family member? A study of au pair policies in United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 25:40–60.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Comparing the United States, United Kingdom and, Australia shows that defining au pairs as “family members,” students, or foreign visitors—instead of as employees subject to minimum wage laws—allows states to provide low-cost childcare to families.

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