What makes wives do more housework in some countries and less in others? Complementary relationships in couples’ housework

Yukiko Asai, University of Tokyo
Masaaki Mizuochi, Mie University
Junya Tsutsui, Ritsumeikan University

The focus of our analysis is the effect of the housework hours of husbands on those of wives, and the factors explaining the nation-level variation in this effect. Using ISSP-2002 data for 17 countries, the authors find that the relationship between wives’ and husbands’ housework is complementary. However, there is nation-level variance in the marginal effect of husbands’ housework on that of wives. Multilevel modeling techniques are used to explain macro-level variance of intercept and coefficient by macro-level variables. We find that the nation-level variance cannot be explained by variables that measure gender-egalitarian equality like GEM and or GDI. These explain the reduction of wives’ housework share compared to that of their husbands’ (Fuwa 2004), but are no longer effective in explaining the nation-level variance of couples’ housework. On the other hand, the variables such as the gender gap in the employment and the labor force participation rates explain the substantive part of the nation-level variations. We find that the marginal effect of husbands’ housework hours on those of wives increases as the relative share of women in the labor market or employment increases; husbands help their wives with more housework in a gender-egalitarian context because it is economically efficient to do so, and the opportunity cost for wives spending their time doing housework is higher in a gender-egalitarian labor market. Further, the national average of relative income by gender explains the national-level difference. These findings reveal the relevance of the economic efficiency theory in explaining husbands’ and wives’ housework time allocations. This study suggests that increases in labor market opportunity for women might allow husbands to do more housework and help wives reduce the time they spend doing the same.

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Presented in Session 87: Gender division of care and domestic work

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