What Are Men Doing while Women Perform Extra Unpaid Labor? Leisure and Specialization at the Transitions to Parenthood
Marriage has significantly changed since Becker proposed his specialization model yet some scholars maintain that specialization characterizes modern couples. Specialization occurs when one partner, traditionally the man, concentrates on market work while the other partner, traditionally the woman, focuses on nonmarket work such as housework or childcare. Using innovative time diary data from primarily highly-educated, White, dual-earner U.S. couples, we examine how couples manage their time in market and household work and leisure across a momentous, gendered life course turning point—the transition to parenthood. We find little evidence of specialization, but stronger evidence of nonspecialization where both partners concurrently engaged in market work or leisure. Yet gender still mattered. Men enjoyed more leisure time, particularly on nonworkdays, whereas their partners performed more nonmarket work. Our study is the first known to uncover exactly what men were doing while women performed additional minutes of housework and childcare. On nonworkdays, fathers engaged in leisure 47% and 35% of the time during which mothers performed childcare and routine housework, respectively. Mothers engaged in leisure only about 16% to 19% of the time that fathers performed childcare and routine housework. In sum, although our study challenges economic theories of specialization by suggesting that nonspecialization is the norm for new parents’ time among highly-educated, dual-earner couples, persistent gender inequalities continue to characterize family work and leisure time.
KeywordsSpecialization Division of labor Transition to parenthood Gender gap Gender equality Housework Leisure
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