The Gendered Division of Household Labor

  • Oriel SullivanEmail author
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


In this chapter I first define, and then examine the origins of research into, the gendered division of household labor and care. I outline the main theoretical approaches, finishing with the development of multi-level theoretical frameworks that connect the institutional and interactional levels of the gendered construction of labor and care. I follow the logic of these models to describe current configurations and trends. I focus on the factors identified by successive decade reviews as being the most important influences on the gendered division of household labor and care, and describe spousal resources and educational level as examples of individual-level influences. I then discuss cross-national trends in relation to institutional-level policy contexts, comparing evidence for and against the idea of a recent ‘stall’ in progress towards gender equality. I conclude by arguing that it is important to recognize the processes of progressive change that are at work, in order to continue to press for movement in the direction of greater equality. I outline the most significant barriers that need addressing, emphasizing in particular the persistency of traditional masculinities, and policy directions that fail to address the need for a better work-life balance for both women and men.


Domestic division of labor Gender convergence Housework and care 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OxfordOxfordUK

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