Dividing the Domestic: Men, Women, and Household Work in Cross-National Perspective

Dividing the Domestic: Men, Women, and Household Work in Cross-National Perspective

Dividing the Domestic: Men, Women, and Household Work in Cross-National Perspective

Dividing the Domestic: Men, Women, and Household Work in Cross-National Perspective

Synopsis

In Dividing the Domestic, leading international scholars roll up their sleeves to investigate how culture and country characteristics permeate our households and our private lives. The book introduces novel frameworks for understanding why the household remains a bastion of traditional gender relations- even when employed full-time, women everywhere still do most of the work around the house, and poor women spend more time on housework than affluent women. Education systems, tax codes, labor laws, public polices, and cultural beliefs about motherhood and marriage all make a difference. Any accounting of "who does what" needs to consider the complicity of trade unions, state arrangements for children's schooling, and new cultural prescriptions for a happy marriage. With its cross-national perspective, this pioneering volume speaks not only to sociologists concerned with gender and family, but also to those interested in scholarship on states, public policy, culture, and social inequality.

Excerpt

To understand how married people divide the household work, a wealth of research has examined the characteristics of the husband, the wife, and their household. A keyword search for housework in Sociological Abstracts yields a remarkable 1736 scholarly publications. These studies, however, have focused on single-country cases and usually on the United States. The research has had little of the cross-national comparison that enlivens and informs so much of contemporary sociology. Because “traditional” gender relations and the balance of work–family activities are being challenged to varying degrees from country to country, the time has come to examine how national context affects the very organization of intimate family life. In this volume, leading international scholars take a path-breaking turn away from single-country studies, extending a rich area of inquiry to show how people's domestic lives are shaped by the country in which they live. The ambitious research by our contributors bridges the micro and macro levels of analysis to demonstrate how social institutions and national cultures penetrate the most intimate aspects of our private lives.

Why study who does the housework? At one time, housework was of little scholarly interest outside the field of home economics, a pragmatic branch of academia dedicated to bringing the scientific efficiency of modern industry to the household (Ehrenreich and English 1978). The study of housework gained broader legitimacy when labor economists observed that men divided their time between market work and leisure, but women also spent time in “home production” (Mincer and Polachek 1974). Whether they produced tidy homes or polite children or buttered biscuits, their household labor contributed to the well-being of their families. Under the banner of the “New Home Economics,” neoclassical economists applauded husband– wife differences in household responsibilities for bringing the efficiencies of economic specialization to the family (Becker 1981). Sociologists also found much to admire in a system that saw men largely in the labor force and women mostly in the home. The most honored American sociologist of . . .

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