The body of recent American research indicates that women continue to perform the vast majority of household labor. Understanding the conditions under which couples can achieve an egalitarian division of household labor constitutes one of the first steps in attaining gender equity in the private and public spheres. This article discusses the state of research on the division of household labor published between 2000 and 2009. After a discussion of conceptualization and methodological issues, we review empirical findings that support or challenge the micro- and macro-level perspectives (focusing on individual characteristics and national contexts, respectively) that have been proposed to explain the gendered allocation of labor. We then review studies focusing on the interplay between these two prominent perspectives.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Arrighi, B. A., & Maume, D. J. (2000). Workplace subordination and men’s avoidance of housework. Journal of Family Issues, 21, 464–487.
Artis, J. E., & Pavalko, E. K. (2003). Explaining the decline in women’s household labor: Individual change and cohort differences. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65, 746–761.
Badr, H., & Acitelli, L. K. (2008). Attachment insecurity and perceptions of housework: Associations with marital well-being. Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 313–319.
Bartley, S. J., Blanton, P. W., & Gillard, J. L. (2005). Husbands and wives in dual-earner marriages: Decision-making, gender role attitudes, division of household labor, and equity. Marriage and Family Review, 37, 69–74.
Batalova, J. A., & Cohen, P. N. (2002). Premarital cohabitation and housework: Couples in cross-national perspective. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 743–755.
Bernhardt, E., Noack, T., & Hovde Lyngstad, T. (2009). Shared housework in Norway and Sweden: Advancing the gender revolution. Journal of European Social Policy, 18, 275–288.
Bianchi, S. M., & Raley, S. B. (2005). Time allocation in families. In S. M. Bianchi, L. M. Casper, & B. R. King (Eds.), Work, family, health, and well-being (pp. 21–42). Mahwah: Erlbaum.
Bianchi, S. M., Milkie, M. A., Sayer, L. C., & Robinson, J. P. (2000). Is anyone doing the housework? Trends in the gender division of household labor. Social Forces, 79, 191–228.
Bittman, M., England, P., Sayer, L., Folbre, N., & Matheson, G. (2003). When does gender trump money? Bargaining and time in household work. American Journal of Sociology, 109, 186–214.
Bolzendahl, C. I., & Myers, D. J. (2004). Feminist attitudes and support for gender equality: Opinion change in women and men, 1974-1998. Social Forces, 83, 759–790.
Brooks, C., & Bolzendahl, C. (2004). The transformation of US gender role attitudes: Cohort replacement, social-structural change, and ideological learning. Social Science Research, 33, 106–133.
Cha, Y., & Thébaud, S. (2009). Labor markets, breadwinning, and beliefs: How economic context shapes men’s gender ideology. Gender & Society, 23, 215–243.
Ciabattari, T. (2004). Cohabitation and housework: The effects of marital intentions. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 118–125.
Claffey, S. T., & Mickelson, K. D. (2009). Division of household labor and distress: The role of perceived fairness for employed mothers. Sex Roles, 60, 819–831.
Coltrane, S. (2000). Research on household labor: Modeling and measuring the social embeddedness of routine family work. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 1208–1233.
Coltrane, S., & Adams, M. (2001). Men’s family work: Child-centered fathering and the sharing of domestic labor. In R. Hetz & N. L. Marshall (Eds.), Working families: The transformation of the American home (pp. 72–99). Berkeley: University of California.
Crompton, R., Brockmann, M., & Lyonette, C. (2005). Attitudes, women’s employment and the domestic division of labour: A cross national analysis in two waves. Work, employment, and Society, 19, 213–233.
Cunningham, M. (2001). Parental influences on the gendered division of housework. American Sociological Review, 66, 184–203.
Cunningham, M. (2007). Influences of women’s employment on the gendered division of household labor over the life course: Evidence from a 31-year panel study. Journal of Family Issues, 28, 422–444.
Davis, S., & Greenstein, T. N. (2004). Cross-national variations in the division of household labor. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 1260–1271.
Davis, S., Greenstein, T. N., & Gerteisen Marks, J. P. (2007). Effects of union type on division of household labor: Do cohabiting men really perform more housework? Journal of Family Issues, 28, 1246–1272.
Deven, F., & Moss, P. (2002). Leave arrangements for parents: Overview and future outlook. Community, Work & Family, 5, 2002.
Erickson, R. J. (2005). Why emotion work matters: Sex, gender, and the division of household labor. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 337–351.
Evertsson, M., & Nermo, M. (2007). Changing resources and the division of housework: A longitudinal study of Swedish couples. European Sociological Review, 23, 455–470.
Fan, P.-L., & Marini, M. M. (2000). Influences on gender-role attitudes during the transition to adulthood. Social Science Research, 29, 258–283.
Fuwa, M. (2004). Macro-level gender inequality and the division of household labor in 22 countries. American Sociological Review, 69, 751–767.
Fuwa, M., & Cohen, P. N. (2007). Housework and social policy. Social Science Research, 36, 512–530.
Geist, C. (2005). The welfare state and the home: Regime differences in domestic division of labour. European Sociological Review, 21, 23–41.
Gershuny, J. (2000). Changing times: Work and leisure in postindustrial society. Oxford: Oxford University.
Gershuny, J., & Sullivan, O. (2003). Time use, gender, and public policy regimes. Social Politics, 10, 205–227.
Gornick, J., & Meyers, M. (2003). Families that work: Policies for reconciling parenthood and employment. New York: Sage.
Greenstein, T. N. (2000). Economic dependence, gender, and the division of labor in the home: A replication and extension. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62, 322–335.
Greenstein, T. N. (2009). National context, family satisfaction, and fairness in the division of household labor. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71, 1039–1051.
Gupta, S. (2006). Her money, her time: Women’s earnings and their housework hours. Social Science Research, 35, 975–999.
Gupta, S. (2007). Autonomy, dependence, or display? The relationship between married women’s earnings and housework. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 399–417.
Hochschild, A. (1989). The second shift. New York: Penguin.
Hook, J. L. (2004). Reconsidering the division of household labor: Incorporating volunteer work and informal support. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 101–117.
Hook, J. (2006). Care in context: Men’s unpaid work in 20 countries, 1965-2003. American Sociological Review, 71, 639–660.
Iversen, T., & Rosenbluth, F. (2006). The political economy of gender: Explaining cross-national variation in the gender division of labor and the gender voting gap. American Journal of Political Science, 50, 1–19.
Jacobs, J., & Gerson, K. (2004). The time divide: Work, family, and gender inequality. Cambridge: Harvard University.
Kamo, Y. (2000). “He Said, She Said”: Assessing discrepancies in husbands’ and wives’ reports on the division of household labor. Social Science Research, 29, 459–476.
Kitterød, R. H., & Pettersen, S. V. (2006). Making up for mothers’ employed working hours? Housework and childcare among Norwegian fathers. Work, Employment, and Society, 20, 473–492.
Klein, W., Izquierdo, C., & Bradbury, T. N. (2007). Working relationships: Communicative patterns and strategies among couples in everyday life. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 4, 29–47.
Knudsen, K., & Wærness, K. (2008). National context and spouses’ housework in 34 countries. European Sociological Review, 24, 97–113.
Kroska, A. (2004). Divisions of domestic work: Revising and expanding the theoretical explanations. Journal of Family Issues, 25, 900–932.
Kurdek, L. S. (2007). The allocation of household labor by partners in gay and lesbian couples. Journal of Family Issues, 28, 132–148.
Lewis, S., & Smithson, J. (2006). Gender, parenthood and the changing European workplace: Young adults negotiating the work-family boundary (Project HPSE-CT-2002-00125). European Commission.
Lincoln, A. E. (2008). Gender, productivity, and the marital wage premium. Journal of Marriage and Family, 70, 806–814.
Lothaller, H., Mikula, G., & Schoebi, D. (2009). What contributes to the (im)balanced division of family work between the sexes? Swiss Journal of Psychology, 68, 143–152.
Major, D. A., & Germano, L. M. (2006). The changing nature of work and its impact on the work-home interface. In F. Jones, R. J. Burke, & M. Westman (Eds.), Work-life balance: A psychological perspective (pp. 13–38). New York: Psychology.
Mannino, C. A., & Deutsch, F. M. (2007). Changing the division of household labor: A negotiated process between partners. Sex Roles, 56, 309–324.
Minnotte, K. L., Stevens, D. P., Minnotte, M. C., & Kiger, G. (2007). Emotion-work performance among dual-earner couples: Testing four theoretical perspectives. Journal of Family Issues, 28, 773–793.
Nooman, M. C., Estes, S. B., & Glass, J. L. (2007). Do workplace flexibility policies influence time spent in domestic labor? Journal of Family Issues, 28, 263–288.
Parkman, A. M. (2004). Bargaining over housework: The frustrating situation of secondary wage earners. The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 63, 765–794.
Pinto, K. M., & Coltrane, S. (2009). Divisions of labor in Mexican origin and Anglo families: Structure and culture. Sex Roles, 60, 482–495.
Poeschl, G. (2008). Social norms and the feeling of justice about unequal family practices. Social Justice Research, 21, 69–85.
Robinson, B. K., & Hunter, E. (2008). Is Mom still doing it all? Work in popular advertising. Journal of Family Issues, 29, 465–486.
Sayer, L. C., Cohen, P. N., & Casper, L. M. (2004). Women, men and work. In R. Farley & J. Haaga (Eds.), The American people (pp. 76–106). New York: Sage.
Shelton, B. A., & John, D. (1996). The division of household labor. Annual Review of Sociology, 22, 299–322.
United Nations Development Program. (2004). Human development report. New York: Oxford University.
Windebank, J. (2001). Dual-earner couples in Britain and France: Gender divisions of domestic labour and parenting work in different welfare states. Work, Employment & Society, 15, 269–290.
Yodanis, C. (2005). Divorce culture and marital gender equality: A cross-national study. Gender and Society, 19, 644–659.
This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
About this article
Cite this article
Lachance-Grzela, M., Bouchard, G. Why Do Women Do the Lion’s Share of Housework? A Decade of Research. Sex Roles 63, 767–780 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-010-9797-z
- Division of household labor