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Intra‐Household Specialization in Housework in the United States and Denmark*

Jens Bonke (), Mette Deding, Mette Lausten () and Leslie Stratton

Social Science Quarterly, 2008, vol. 89, issue 4, 1023-1043

Abstract: Objective. Focusing on housework activities, we hypothesize that the degree of specialization is influenced by economic notions of efficiency, as well as by time constraints and egalitarian values. Methods. Employing time‐use data on U.S. and Danish couples, we construct a composite index measure of intra‐household specialization. We analyze the comparability of reported time use and our specialization index using different types of data, and then model specialization using a multivariate two‐limit Tobit. Results. We find evidence that Danish households specialize less than U.S. households and that children, particularly preschool‐aged children, are associated with significantly increased specialization in the United States but not in Denmark. Conclusions. We postulate that the more egalitarian social structure in Scandinavia is a driving force behind the lower rate of specialization observed in Denmark. Further, we believe the subsidized child‐care services provided by the Danish welfare system reduce the impact children have on specialization in ordinary housework tasks.

Date: 2008
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