Research on Household Labor: Modeling and Measuring the Social Embeddedness of Routine Family Work

By Cotrane, Scott | Journal of Marriage and Family, November 2000 | Go to article overview

Research on Household Labor: Modeling and Measuring the Social Embeddedness of Routine Family Work


Cotrane, Scott, Journal of Marriage and Family


This article reviews more than 200 scholarly articles and books on household labor published between 1989 and 1999. As a maturing area of study, this body of research has been concerned with understanding and documenting how housework is embedded in complex and shifting social processes relating to the well-being of families, the construction of gender, and the reproduction of society. Major theoretical, methodological, and empirical contributions to the study of household labor are summarized, and suggestions for further research are offered. In summary, women have reduced and men have increased slightly their hourly contributions to housework. Although men's relative contributions have increased, women still do at least twice as much routine housework as men. Consistent predictors of sharing include both women's and men's employment, earnings, gender ideology, and life-course issues. More balanced divisions of housework are associated with women perceiving fairness, experiencing less depression, and enjoying higher marital satisfaction.

Key Words: division of labor, domestic labor, fairness, family, gender, housework

American families are facing complex and contradictory challenges as we embark on the 21st century. Although beliefs about the appropriate roles of men and women in the workplace have undergone substantial shifts in the past several decades, assumptions about who should perform unpaid family work have changed more slowly. And changes in domestic behavior have been slower still. Although the vast majority of both men and women now agree that family labor should be shared, few men assume equal responsibility for household tasks. On average, women perform two or three times as much housework as men, and the vast majority of men, as well as most women, rate these arrangements as fair. In part, this is because most husbands are employed more hours and earn more income than do their wives. Compared with past decades, women are doing less housework and men are doing slightly more, but the redistribution of household labor has been slower and less profound than anticipated. In this review, I suggest that these patterns can only be understood by attending to the symbolic significance of household labor in the social construction of gender and by analyzing the social, cultural, economic, and political contexts in which men and women form families, raise children, and sustain households.

As a topic worthy of serious academic study, housework came of age in the 1990s. Not only did the number of books and articles on the subject expand dramatically during that decade, but scholars from a wide range of academic disciplines turned their attention to isolating the causes and consequences of divisions of household labor for men, women, children, families, and society. Many of these studies attempted to operationalize concepts and test hypotheses emerging from the time-use research tradition (Berk & Berk, 1979; Robinson, 1977), or from past interview and observational studies (Hochschild, 1989; Hood, 1983). The more than 200 works cited in this review do not exhaust research on the topic, but they do represent a cross-section of influential social science works in the field. Because the foundation for this research was laid in past decades, readers interested in the history and development of the field are encouraged to consult classic housework and marriage studies (Bernard, 1972; Blood & Wolfe, 1960; Oakley, 1974; Vanek, 1974), and earlier reviews (England & Farkas, 1986; Ferree, 1990; Miller & Garrison, 1982; Osmond & Thorne, 1993; Shelton & John, 1996; Szinovacz, 1987; Thompson & Walker, 1989).

The most important theme to emerge from household labor studies in the past decade is that housework is embedded in complex and shifting patterns of social relations. Although most studies focus on only a few aspects of this embeddedness, taken together, they reveal how housework cannot be understood without realizing how it is related to gender, household structure, family interaction, and the operation of both formal and informal market economies. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Research on Household Labor: Modeling and Measuring the Social Embeddedness of Routine Family Work
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.