Who Does More Housework: Rich or Poor? A Comparison of 33 Countries

Heisig, Jan Paul
February 2011
American Sociological Review;Feb2011, Vol. 76 Issue 1, p74
Academic Journal
This article studies the relationship between household income and housework time across 33 countries. In most countries, low-income individuals do more housework than their high-income counterparts; the differences are even greater for women’s domestic work time. The analysis shows that the difference between rich and poor women’s housework time falls with economic development and rises with overall economic inequality. I use a cross-national reinterpretation of arguments from the historical time-use literature to show that this is attributable to the association between economic development and the diffusion of household technologies and to the association between economic inequality and the prevalence of service consumption among high-income households. Results for a direct measure of technology diffusion provide striking evidence for the first interpretation. The findings question the widespread notion that domestic technologies have had little or no impact on women’s housework time. On a general level, I find that gender inequalities are fundamentally conditioned by economic inequalities. A full understanding of the division of housework requires social scientists to go beyond couple-level dynamics and situate households and individuals within the broader social and economic structure.


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