Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Earnings and Expenditures on Household Services in Married and Cohabiting Unions

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Earnings and Expenditures on Household Services in Married and Cohabiting Unions

Article excerpt

Despite the rise in women's paid employment, little is known about how women and their partners allocate money to outsource domestic tasks, especially in unmarried unions. Tobit analyses of 6,170 married and cohabiting couples in the 1998 Consumer Expenditure Survey test hypotheses that recognize gender inequality between partners, gender typing of household tasks, and differences between cohabitation and marriage. Women's earned income is more important than men's for spending on female tasks. Men's earnings are not more important for male tasks, but the earnings of married men are more strongly linked to expenditures on female tasks than are the earnings of cohabiting men. The research indicates that working women leverage their earnings to reduce their domestic burden through outsourcing.

Key Words: cohabitation, gender, housework, wife's employment.

Married women are spending more time in the labor force, but husbands have not shown a comparable increase in time spent in housework. Men are doing somewhat more around the house, but women are doing considerably less (Bianchi, Milkie, Sayer, & Robinson, 2000). Sociologists speculate that couples are purchasing domestic help to make up this deficit in household labor (Bianchi et al.; Blumstein & Schwartz, 1983). Pressed for time, dual-career couples can afford to hire others, but we know little about how domestic spending articulates with women's paid employment. Without considering the gender typing of outsourced work (Blair & Lichter, 1991; Twiggs, McQuillan, & Ferree, 1999), we do not know if women's earnings prompt spending to reduce the domestic burden on women, men, or both. Because couples are increasingly likely to be unmarried (Casper & Cohen, 2000), an important question is whether men's and women's earnings have the same implications for domestic outsourcing in cohabitation as in marriage.

Given research on gender and the division of household labor, men and women are assumed to differ in motivations to outsource male and female tasks. Disaggregating total earned income into female and male earnings, we test competing hypotheses regarding shared preferences for spending versus individual preferences on the basis of self-interest. As men and women have a different stake in spending to lighten household labor, we consider how the partners' earnings relate to outsourcing of own-gender and other-gender chores. Lastly, we examine how the nature of the union-cohabitation versus marriage-mutes or amplifies the associations of male and female earnings with spending on own-gender and other-gender chores.

Background on Outsourcing Expenditures

The higher the household income, the more domestic services are purchased (Bittman, Matheson, & Meagher, 1999; Cohen, 1998; de Ruijter, Treas, & Cohen, 2005). Compared to single-earner couples, dual earners dine out more often (Bittman et al.; Yen, 1993). The wife's income is more important for expenditures on child care (Brayfield & Hofferth, 1995) and housekeeping (Cohen; Oropesa, 1993) but not meals out (Cohen). Controlling for income, women's employment hours have no effect on housekeeping expenditures (Cohen; Oropesa), but total work hours of household members remain significant (de Ruijter et al., 2005).

Research emphasizes the housework done by women to the neglect of male chores. Because tasks are gender typed (Blair & Lichter, 1991; Twiggs et al., 1999), how much money men and women spend to outsource may depend on the particular chore. Compared to single women, single men spend more money to outsource female tasks (and less on male ones) (de Ruijter et al., 2005). If outsourcing "woman's work" reduces women's domestic burden, we still need to know about male tasks to evaluate whether domestic spending favors one partner or the other.

Outsourcing studies focus on married people, even as unmarried unions have increased (Casper & Cohen, 2000; Smock, 2000). …

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