European Journal of Population

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 99–128 | Cite as

Gender Roles, Comparative Advantages and the Life Course: The Division of Domestic Labor in Same-Sex and Different-Sex Couples

  • Gerrit BauerEmail author


Lesbian and gay couples by definition cannot establish sex-specific divisions of domestic tasks, at least not literally. Previous research has shown that high levels of equality characterize domestic work arrangements in same-sex couples. This study scrutinizes explanations for this. The theoretical background stems from family economics, from the theory of relative resources and from gender role and life-course considerations. The empirical analysis is based upon the Generations and Gender Survey from Austria, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Australia. Results show that same-sex partners engage in more tasks equally, that their housework-sharing pattern is less segregated and that the partners’ workload is more equally balanced. Comparative advantages, life-course differences and gender roles contribute to the explanation of higher levels of equality in same-sex compared to different-sex relationships.


Division of housework Same-sex couples Family economics Gender roles 



The author is grateful to Henning Best, Tim Birkenbach, Norman Braun, Josef Brüderl, Freya Gassmann, Marita Jacob, Thorsten Kneip and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Munich (LMU)MunichGermany

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