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When Gender Trumps Money: Bargaining and Time in Household Work

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  • Michael Bittman
  • Paula England
  • Nancy Folbre
  • George Matheson

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."

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research in its series JCPR Working Papers with number 221.

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Date of creation: 04 Apr 2001
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Handle: RePEc:wop:jopovw:221

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  1. Lundberg, S.J. & Pollak, R.A. & Wales, T.J., 1994. "Do Husbands and Wives Pool Their Resources? Evidence from U.K. Child Benefit," Discussion Papers in Economics at the University of Washington 94-6, Department of Economics at the University of Washington.
  2. Lundberg, Shelly & Pollak, Robert A, 1993. "Separate Spheres Bargaining and the Marriage Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(6), pages 988-1010, December.
  3. McElroy, Marjorie B & Horney, Mary Jean, 1981. "Nash-Bargained Household Decisions: Toward a Generalization of the Theory of Demand," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 22(2), pages 333-49, June.
  4. Bina Agarwal, 1997. "''Bargaining'' and Gender Relations: Within and Beyond the Household," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 3(1), pages 1-51.
  5. Marjorie B. McElroy, 1990. "The Empirical Content of Nash-Bargained Household Behavior," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(4), pages 559-583.
  6. Shelly Lundberg & Robert A. Pollak, 1996. "Bargaining and Distribution in Marriage," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 139-158, Fall.
  7. Juster, F. Thomas & Stafford, Frank P., 1990. "The Allocation of Time: Empirical Findings, Behavioural Models, and Problems of Measurement," Working Paper Series 258, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  8. Iiris Niemi, 1993. "Systematic error in behavioural measurement: Comparing results from interview and time budget studies," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 30(2), pages 229-244, November.
  9. Elizabeth Katz, 1997. "The Intra-Household Economics of Voice and Exit," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 3(3), pages 25-46.
  10. Shelly J. Lundberg & Robert A. Pollak & Terence J. Wales, 1997. "Do Husbands and Wives Pool Their Resources? Evidence from the United Kingdom Child Benefit," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 32(3), pages 463-480.
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