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The second shift: assimilation in housework time among immigrants

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Using the 2003–2014 American Time Use Survey, this paper studies the assimilation in housework time among married US immigrants. The gender gap in housework time narrows from first to one-point-five to second generation, where assimilation is driven by a decrease in housework time of women, particularly of those from countries with low female labor supply. The findings are robust to including couple’s working hours and number of children, indicating that there is assimilation in the burden of the second shift—household work—in addition to that in immigrants’ labor market outcomes and fertility rates.

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  1. See Goldin (2004) for a historical discussion of the changes in US college graduate women’s family and career choices.

  2. Alesina and Giuliano (2010) studies the effect of family ties on home production as well, but compares within the second generation.

  3. Childcare is a separate category from household activities. Guryan et al. (2008) finds that in contrast to the negative education and income gradient observed for home production and leisure, the amount of time allocated to childcare rises with education and income, and concludes that childcare is best modeled as being distinct from either typical home production or leisure activities. I do not combine childcare with housework in this paper for this reason, and also because childcare time is highly dependent on the number and age of children in the household.

  4. Results do not change when I also exclude respondents above age 65.

  5. Results are robust to alternative age cutoffs (see Sect. 5.1). The term “one-point-five” is used instead of “child immigrants” because the latter may be confused with immigrants who are children currently, at the time of survey. Age at migration is calculated by subtracting the respondent’s birthyear from the year of immigration variable. For cases when the year of immigration is given as intervals, I use the last year in the bracket so that none of the first generation are coded as one-point-five.

  6. There are no respondents who are foreign-born yet with a US-born father in the sample, reducing the possibility of bias from adoptees. Note that some second generation may not be US-born, because those who are born abroad of American parents are also included in this group.

  7. ATUS reports time use in minutes per day. For convenience, I convert this to weekly measures via \((minutes*7/60\)). I look at both the intensive and extensive margins of housework because nearly 18 % of respondents (mostly men) report zero hours of housework.

  8. I use family income instead of individual earnings, because it is the only income variable available for all respondents including the self-employed.

  9. Low-skilled immigrants are employed in services that are close substitutes for household production, and hence the population of immigrants may affect the labor supply of educated women in that region. See Cortes and Tessada (2011).

  10. Although this specification addresses the concern about country composition, it has the drawback of having small sample size for “rare” source countries (see Table 6 in Appendix for a list of the most common source countries in my sample).

  11. Individuals whose father’s birthplace is indicated as regions or continents, such as “Central America n.s.” and “Africa n.s.” are excluded from the analyses. For the countries that are named or grouped differently in the ATUS from the United Nations dataset, the following adjustments have been made (they are assigned the FLFP rate of the country in parenthesis): Czechoslovakia and Czech Republic (Czech Republic); Korea and South Korea (Republic of Korea); England, Scotland, Wales, United Kingdom, and United Kingdom n.s. (United Kingdom); Ireland and Northern Ireland (Ireland); Other USSR/Russia and USSR n.s. (Russian Federation).

  12. The mean female labor force participation rate of immigrants’ source countries is around 50 % for first and one-point-five generations and 57 % for second generation. Third generation all have 70.9 % as their source country FLFP because that is the statistic for the US in 1985. The percentage from low-FLFP countries is around 80 % among first and one-point-five generations, more than 70 % among second, and of course, 0 among third (see Table 1).

  13. I can conduct robustness checks on the specification used in Table 2 or 3. All findings remain valid either way. In this paper, I present results from the latter because it allows for differences by source country group as well as gender.

  14. According to the United Nations Population Fund, in 2010, 158 countries reported that 18 years was the minimum legal age for marriage for women without parental consent or approval by a pertinent authority.

  15. See Chiappori and Donni (2011) for a survey of the literature on non-unitary models of household behavior.

  16. I thank the referee for this suggestion.


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I am grateful to Alberto Alesina, Raj Chetty, Claudia Goldin, Lawrence Katz, Paola Giuliano, two anonymous referees, and seminar participants at Harvard University for helpful comments. An earlier version of this paper was titled “The second shift: housework time among immigrants.” I thank Hankuk University of Foreign Studies for financial support.

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Correspondence to Jisoo Hwang.



See Tables 6, 7 and Fig. 2.

Table 6 Most frequent source countries by generation
Table 7 Immigrant generation effects on housework time by employment status
Fig. 2
figure 2

Histogram of female labor force participation rate in source country, by immigrant generation. The female labor force participation rate in the US in 1985 is 70.9 %

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Hwang, J. The second shift: assimilation in housework time among immigrants. Rev Econ Household 14, 941–959 (2016).

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