A recent study investigates intra-household allocations of time spent doing laundry, ironing, cleaning, and food shopping by heterosexual couple households.  The analysis considers the impact of each spouse’s earnings on such decisions, as it is hypothesized that wage differences between genders influence differences in time devoted to household responsibilities.  But the study adds an interesting and insightful twist to the analysis by examining each individual’s preferences towards performing such household chores, that is, the degree to which the individual likes to do these tasks.  (Other possible explanatory factors are also evaluated, including, importantly, the cost of maid services.) 

One interesting result reveals that an increase (decrease) in the woman’s wages is associated with a decrease (increase) in her time spent performing household chores and an increase (decrease) in her spouse’s time spent.  However, a similar result cannot be concluded for a change in the man’s wages (that is, it is not statistically significant).

Additionally, the higher the level of “like” a man expresses for doing laundry, ironing, cleaning, and food shopping, the more time he spends doing these tasks and the less time his spouse spends doing the same tasks. 

Although the study uses time-use survey information from the United Kingdom – I am not aware of similar findings for households in the U.S. – the results provide interesting insights into possible changes in housework done by an individual in response to changes in his/her spouse’s earnings, for instance, due to personal injury or loss of employment.

SOURCE: “The Role of Preferences and Opportunity Costs in Determining the Time Allocated to Housework,” Leslie S. Stratton, American Economic Review: Papers & Proceedings 2012, Vol. 102, No. 3, pp. 606–611, http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/aer.102.3.606.


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