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When Gender Trumps Money: Bargaining and Time in Household Work

Michael Bittman, Paula England, Nancy Folbre and George Matheson

JCPR Working Papers from Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research

Abstract: The Australian Time Use Survey of 1992 provides the best time-diary data available for testing hypotheses about the allocation of husbands' and wives' time to household labor in affluent societies. Our analysis isolates effects of spouses' relative contributions to household income. One finding is consistent with the view of household bargaining derived from sociological exchange theory and economists' game-theoretic threat point models: as women move from complete economic dependence to providing equal income, their money is parlayed into less household work, even holding constant each spouse's hours of market work. But three of our findings show how the scope for bargaining is constrained by gender. First, although women's earnings reduce their own unpaid work, they do nothing to increase their husbands' unpaid work. Second, women's earnings only work to reduce their housework when they contribute less than half of family income. When women contribute more than half, their housework increases with their contribution to income. We interpret this as an attempt to neutralize the gender deviance of the husband earning less than his wife. Third, when spouses' hours of market work and earnings are equal, women still do more household work than men, especially if the couple has young children. Taken together, the findings suggest resistance to male participation in roles or activities identified as "feminine."

Date: 2001-04-04
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-lab
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