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Housework: Priceless Or Valueless?


  • Marianne A. Ferber
  • Bonnie G. Birnbaum


Two ways of estimating the value of housework are currently used. One is the opportunity cost approach, which sets the value of work done at home equal to the income the person could earn in the labor market. The other is the market cost approach, which uses the cost of hiring someone to do the housework to determine its value. In this study we use data on earnings of female clerical workers with various patterns of labor force participation to obtain estimates of the opportunity cost of hometime for such women. We find that potential market earnings do not provide an acceptable estimate of the value of housework, and suggest that using the wages of general household workers is a better approach.

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  • Marianne A. Ferber & Bonnie G. Birnbaum, 1980. "Housework: Priceless Or Valueless?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 26(4), pages 387-400, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:revinw:v:26:y:1980:i:4:p:387-400

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    Cited by:

    1. Harvey S. James Jr., 1996. "The Valuation of Household Production: How Different are the Opportunity Cost and Market Price Valuation Methods?," Microeconomics 9612001, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Gillian Hewitson, 2001. "A Survey of Feminist Economics," Working Papers 2001.01, School of Economics, La Trobe University.
    3. V. Spike Peterson, 2013. "Informal work," Chapters,in: Handbook of Research on Gender and Economic Life, chapter 11, pages 169-182 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    4. Seonglim Lee & Jinkook Lee & Yunhee Chang, 2011. "What is the Cost of Married Women's Paid Work?," Working Papers WR-830, RAND Corporation.
    5. Seonglim Lee & Jinkook Lee & Yunhee Chang, 2014. "Is Dual Income Costly for Married Couples? An Analysis of Household Expenditures," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 35(2), pages 161-177, June.

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