Skip to main content

Advertisement

Log in

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

  • Published:
European Journal of Population Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Andersson, G., Noack, T., Seierstad, A., & Weedon-Fekjær, H. (2006). The demographics of same-sex marriages in Norway and Sweden. Demography, 43(1), 79–98. doi:10.1353/dem.2006.0001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bauer, G. (2015). Graphical display of regression results. In H. Best & C. Wolf (Eds.), The Sage handbook of regression analysis and causal inference (pp. 205–224). Los Angelos, London, New Delhi: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Baxter, J., Hewitt, B., & Haynes, M. (2008). Life course transitions and housework: Marriage, parenthood and time on housework. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70, 259–272. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2008.00479.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baxter, J., Hewitt, B., & Haynes, M. (2010). Pathways into marriage: Cohabitation and the domestic division of labor. Journal of Family Issues, 31(11), 1507–1529. doi:10.1177/0192513X10365817.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Becker, G. S. (1981). A treatise on the family. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Biblarz, T. J., & Savci, E. (2010). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72(3), 480–497. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2010.00714.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bittman, M., England, P., Folbre, N., Sayer, L., & Matheson, G. (2003). When does gender trump money? Bargaining and time in household work. American Journal of Sociology, 109(1), 186–214.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Black, D. A., Sanders, S. G., & Taylor, L. J. (2007). The economics of lesbian and gay families. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(2), 53–70.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Blood, R. O., & Wolfe, D. M. (1960). Husbands & wives—The dynamics of married living (2 Auflage ed.). New York: The Free Press of Glencoe.

    Google Scholar 

  • Blumstein, P., & Schwartz, P. (1983). American couples. Money, work, sex. New York: William Morrow.

    Google Scholar 

  • Browning, M., Chiappori, P.-A., & Weiss, Y. (2014). Economics of the family. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chan, R. W., Brooks, R. C., Raboy, B., & Patterson, C. J. (1998). Division of labor among lesbian and heterosexual parents: Associations with children’s adjustment. Journal of Family Psychology, 12(3), 402–419. doi:10.1037/0893-3200.12.3.402.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Coltrane, S. (2000). Research on household labor: Modeling and measuring the social embeddedness of routine family work. Journal of Marriage an the Family, 62, 1208–1233. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.01208.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Davies, L., & Carrier, P. J. (1999). The importance of power relations for the division of household labour. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 24(1), 35–51.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Evertsson, M., & Nermo, M. (2007). Changing resources and the division of housework: A longitudinal study of Swedish couples. European Sociological Review, 23(4), 455–470.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Farr, R. H., & Patterson, C. J. (2013). Coparenting among lesbian, gay, and heterosexual couples: Associations with adopted children’s outcomes. Child Development, 84(4), 1226–1240. doi:10.1111/cdev.12046.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Grunow, D., Schulz, F., & Blossfeld, H. P. (2012). What determines change in the division of housework over the course of marriage? International Sociology, 27(3), 289–307. doi:10.1177/0268580911423056.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Haas, L. (1981). Domestic role sharing in Sweden. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 43(4), 957–967. doi:10.2307/351351.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Heaphy, B., Donovan, C., & Weeks, J. (2002). Sex, money and the kitchen sink. In S. Jackson, & S. Scott (Eds.), Gender. A Sociological Reader (pp. 248–258, Routledge Student Readers). London, New York: Routledge.

  • Höpflinger, F., & Charles, M. (1990). Innerfamiliale Arbeitsteilung: Mikro-soziologische Erklärungsansätze und empirische Beobachtungen. Zeitschrift für Familienforschung, 2, 87–113.

    Google Scholar 

  • Iyigun, M., & Walsh, R. P. (2007). Endogenous gender power, household labour supply and the demographic transition. Journal of Development Economics, 82, 138–155.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kneip, T., Bauer, G., & Reinhold, S. (2014). Direct and indirect effects of unilateral divorce law on marital stability. Demography, 51(6), 2103–2126.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kroska, A. (2004). Divisions of domestic work. Revising and expanding the theoretical explanations. Journal of Family Issues, 25(7), 900–932.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kurdek, L. A. (1993). The allocation of household labor in gay, lesbian, and heterosexual married couples. Journal of Social Issues, 49(3), 127–139. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.1993.tb01172.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kurdek, L. A. (2004). Are gay and lesbian cohabiting couples really different from heterosexual married couples? Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 880–900. doi:10.1111/j.0022-2445.2004.00060.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kurdek, L. A. (2007). The allocation of household labor by partners in gay and lesbian couples. Journal of Family Issues, 28(1), 132–148. doi:10.1177/0192513x06292019.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lau, C. Q. (2012). The stability of same-sex cohabitation, different-sex cohabitation, and marriage. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74, 973–988. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2012.01000.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lindenberg, S. (1985). An assessment of the new political economy: Its potential for the social sciences and for sociology in particular. Sociological Theory, 3, 99–114.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Loving, T. J., Heffner, K. L., Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Glaser, R., & Malarkey, W. B. (2004). Stress hormone changes and marital conflict: Spouses’ relative power makes a difference. Journal of Marriage an the Family, 66, 595–612. doi:10.1111/j.0022-2445.2004.00040.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Martínez, C., Paterna, C., & Yago, C. (2010). Justifications and comparisons in the division of household labor: The relevance of gender ideology. The Spanish Journal of Psychology, 13(1), 220–231. doi:10.1017/S1138741600003802.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McWhirter, D. P., & Mattison, A. M. (1984). The male couple. How relationships develop. Englewood Cliffs (NJ): Prentice Hall Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moore, M. R. (2008). Gendered power relations among woman: A study of household decision making in Black, lesbian stepfamilies. American Sociological Review, 73, 335–356. doi:10.1177/000312240807300208.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Neyer, G., Lappegård, T., & Vignoli, D. (2013). Gender equality and fertility: Which equality matters? European Journal of Population, 29, 245–272. doi:10.1007/s10680-013-9292-7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Oerton, S. (1997). “Queer housewives?”: Some problems in theorising the division of domestic labour in lesbian and gay households. Women’s Studies International Forum, 20(3), 421–430.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Patterson, C. J. (1995). Families of the lesbian baby boom: Parent’s division of labor and children’s adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 31(1), 115–123. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.31.1.115.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Poortman, A.-R., & van der Lippe, T. (2009). Attitudes toward housework and child care and the gendered division of labor. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71, 526–541. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2009.00617.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reinhold, S., Kneip, T., & Bauer, G. (2013). The long run consequences of unilateral divorce laws on children—evidence from SHARELIFE. Journal of Population Economics, 26(3), 1035–1056. doi:10.1007/s00148-012-0435-7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schulz, F. (2010). Verbundene Lebensläufe. Partnerwahl und Arbeitsteilung zwischen neuen Ressourcenverhältnissen und traditionellen Geschlechterrrollen (Life Course Research). Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

  • Schwartz, C. R., & Graf, N. L. (2009). Assortative matching among same-sex and different-sex couples in the United States, 1999–2000. Demographic Research, 21(28), 843–878. doi:10.4054/DemRes.2009.21.28.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Solomon, S. E., Rothblum, E. D., & Balsam, K. F. (2004). Pioneers in partnership: Lesbian and gay male couples in civil unions compared with those not in civil unions and married heterosexual siblings. Journal of Family Psychology, 18(2), 275–286. doi:10.1037/0893-3200.18.2.275.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Solomon, S. E., Rothblum, E. D., & Balsam, K. F. (2005). Money, housework, sex, and conflict: Same-sex couples in civil unions, those not in civil unions, and heterosexual married siblings. Sex Roles, 52(9+10), 561–575. doi:10.1007/s11199-005-3725-7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • South, S. J., & Spitze, G. (1994). Housework in marital and nonmarital household. American Sociological Review, 59(3), 327–347.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sullivan, O. (2000). The division of domestic labour: Twenty years of change. Sociology, 34(3), 437–456.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sutphin, S. (2013). The division of child care tasks in same-sex couples. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 9(5), 474–491. doi:10.1080/1550428x.2013.826043.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vergauwen, J., Wood, J., De Wachter, D., & Neels, K. (2015). Quality of demographic data in GGS Wave 1. Demographic Research, 32(723–774), 2015. doi:10.4054/DemRes.32.24.

    Google Scholar 

  • West, C., & Zimmermann, D. H. (1987). Doing gender. Gender and Society, 1(2), 125–151. doi:10.1177/0891243287001002002.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weziak-Bialowolska, D. (2015). Differences in gender norms between countries: Are they valid? The issue of measurement invariance. European Journal of Population, 31, 51–76. doi:10.1007/s10680-014-9329-6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

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.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gerrit Bauer.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Appendix 1

Appendix 1

See Tables 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9

Table 5 OLS regression models producing Fig. 1
Table 6 OLS regression models producing Fig. 2, upper part
Table 7 OLS regression models producing Fig. 2, lower part
Table 8 OLS regression models producing Fig. 3
Table 9 Ordered logistic regression models, average marginal effects in Tables 3 and 4

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Bauer, G. Gender Roles, Comparative Advantages and the Life Course: The Division of Domestic Labor in Same-Sex and Different-Sex Couples. Eur J Population 32, 99–128 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-015-9363-z

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10680-015-9363-z

Keywords

Navigation