Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Dynamics of Domestic Labor across Short- and Long-Distance Family Relocations

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Dynamics of Domestic Labor across Short- and Long-Distance Family Relocations

Article excerpt

Domestic divisions of labor are a fundamental site for gender inequality and have been subject to considerable attention in the social science literature. In recent years, this literature has shifted its focus to the role of family dynamics and life course transitions. For example, a substantial amount of recent research has been devoted to examining how the relative shares of paid and unpaid work undertaken by men and women are influenced by entering a cohabiting relationship, getting married, becoming a parent, and experiencing relationship dissolution (Baxter, Hewitt, & Haynes, 2008; Gupta, 1999; Kluwer, Heesink, & van de Vliert, 2002). Typical findings from these studies are that life course transitions have transformative effects on the number of hours that men and women allocate to housework, in particular among women. However, this growing body of evidence is still incomplete, as the influence of some life course events and transitions on household divisions of labor remains underexplored.

We are interested in one event that has the potential to alter the gender balance in household arrangements but has not yet been examined in this context: family relocations. Long-standing demographic, sociological, and economic research has unveiled how family migration within countries is an important factor promoting and perpetuating gender inequality at work. Family moves are often motivated by an opportunity to enhance the work career of the male partner, with the female partner following him (Mincer, 1978; Perales & Vidal, 2013). As a result, after family relocations women experience increased odds of becoming unemployed or underemployed, wage losses, and slowed career progression relative both to nonmovers and their own partners (Boyle, Feng, & Gayle, 2009; T. J. Cooke, Boyle, Couch, & Feijten, 2009). Thus, family migration is a factor that exacerbates overall as well as within-couple gender inequality (Halfacree, 1995). However, despite the fact that the literature on family relocations is generally concerned with gender divisions of labor, empirical tests have been restricted to outcomes in the paid work realm, such as hourly wages, weekly hours of work, and employment status. To date, it has been silent on whether family relocations also promote the emergence of work-related gender inequalities in the domestic realm, such as time spent on housework. This is limiting, because there are important intersections between paid and unpaid work over the life course that may make family relocations conducive to renegotiations of couples' domestic work arrangements.

The main aim of this study was to reconcile the separate literatures on gender inequality due to family relocations and gendered divisions of household labor and provide first-time empirical evidence on the relationships between these phenomena. There are three reasons why family relocations may be associated with gender divisions of labor: (a) increases in household labor resulting from the preparation of a house move and adaptation to the new location, which may be shared inequitably by the male and female partner (Boyd & Grieco, 2003); (b) the fact that family relocations exacerbate within-couple differences in paid work favoring male partners, and these may in turn widen within-couple differences in unpaid work (Boyle et al., 2009; T. J. Cooke et al., 2009); and (c) evidence that changes in family structure are intimately connected to both residential trajectories (Feldhaus, Huinink, & Vidal, 2013; Kulu & Milewski, 2007) and housework divisions (Baxter et al., 2008).

We contribute to the literature on housework by expanding our understanding of how life course events and transitions are associated with the allocation of domestic work within the household and to the literature on family relocations by examining whether the consequences of such events for gender relations extend beyond the realm of paid work. More specifically, we tested whether or not the share of housework done by the male and female spouses changes when couples undertake family moves, comparing short- and long-distance relocations. …

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