Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Division of Household Labor in Germany and Israel

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

The Division of Household Labor in Germany and Israel

Article excerpt

We compare the patterns of household division of labor in Germany and Israel-two countries that share key elements of the corporatist welfare regime but differ in their gender regimes-and evaluate several hypotheses using data from the 2002 International Social Survey Program. Although time constraints and relative resources affect the division of household labor and women's housework in both societies, we find that in Germany the gender order of household labor is more rigid, whereas in Israel the spouses' linked labor market status exerts distinctive effects. We also find significant relationships between gender ideology and the division of household labor. We discuss the theoretical advantages of approaching the comparative study of gender inequality from the vantage point of family and gender regimes.

Key Words: division of household labor, family roles, gender ideology, housework.

Despite a remarkable rise in female labor force participation and a persistent, albeit sluggish, movement toward greater gender equality in society, household work remains highly segregated and predominantly a woman's responsibility. Over the past decades, women have reduced somewhat the amount of time spent on household tasks, yet, they still do considerably more than their male spouses (Bianchi, Milkie, Sayer, & Robinson, 2000; Shelton & John, 1996). Moreover, routine activities essential to household functioning are typically performed by women, and only a minority of couples share the responsibility for household tasks (Goldscheider & Waite, 1991; Presser, 1994; Stier & LewinEpstein, 2000).

Recent studies using comprehensive data analysis have made some progress in integrating and articulating a number of sociological perspectives on the household division of labor (Baxter, 1997; Bianchi, Milkie, Sayer, & Robinson, 2000; Coltrane, 2000), but our understanding of this phenomenon and its persistence is still rather rudimentary. At the microlevel the issue is typically framed in terms of the implicit contract between the spouses, which is partially dependent on their personal attributes and labor market activities. On a broader level, family division of labor is addressed in terms of the societal factors that impact on the organization of the household. These include the relationship between family, market, and state, as well as cultural norms. The latter concern is best addressed by means of comparative analysis that permits the examination of structural factors associated with different patterns of household organization.

This article aims to enhance the understanding of the household division of labor and the antecedents of the egalitarian gender regime in several ways. First, by studying the patterns of housework in Germany and Israel, we aim to contribute to the small but growing body of research that focuses on the social context of the gendered division of household labor. Second, we evaluate the time constraints and the resource dependence perspectives as well as the gender ideology argument concerning the housework of working women. Third, by examining the time devoted to housework by both spouses as well as the extent of sharing daily household tasks, we provide a detailed account of the correlates of the household division of labor.

Generalized Explanations of the Division of Household Labor

Sociological approaches to the household division of labor can be grouped into two broad classes. One class of explanations is framed in terms of microrelations and includes several variants of exchange theory. According to this approach, the actual practices followed by spouses are viewed as negotiated agreements that take into account differential resources as well as extrafamilial activities in which spouses are engaged (Bianchi et al., 2000; Blood & Wolfe, 1960; Brines, 1994). A second class of explanations is premised on the idea that the household division of labor is not merely an agreement struck between two social actors. …

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