Gender and the generations

Who people live with is part of the gender division of labor.

Studying the division of housework among married couples is like studying earnings inequality among people who are already employed: it’s one important part of the story.*

Put another way, if you don’t live with someone, there’s only so much housework and carework you will do for them. (That’s why I was concerned about who children with disabilities live with.)

So the latest news, of a rebound in the percentage of people living in multigenerational households, made me wonder about the household and carework burden shifts that could be going along with it. We rarely think of multigenerational living as a quaint cultural throwback anymore. Love is often involved, but there is a lot evidence most people avoid it if they can afford to. An uptick during a major recession is part of that evidence.

But who is living with whom? (Or, as Lynne Casper and I put it in 2002, “In Whose Home?” — a title I was sure would make this article an instant classic — oh well.) If you break down the Census data simply by who is the “householder” (Census parlance for “the person in whose name the home or apartment is owned or rented”) or that person’s spouse, you can get an idea of the relationships.

At the end of the 1990s, we found that men are more likely to be “guests” (not their home), while women are more likely to be “hosts” (their or their spouse’s home). And the age breakdown showed that younger folks were much more likely to to be guests, and people in their 50s and 60s were doing most of the hosting (except at the oldest ages).

It’s possible young men are doing all that guesting because they’re helping out with the housework. And it’s possible that the older people doing all that hosting are charging rent to their relatives. But it’s more likely that women hosts are caring for male guests, and older relatives are providing housing to younger relatives.

*Good examples of working around this might mean include people with $0 earnings in the earnings analysis, or including people who don’t have the job yet in hiring studies.

3 thoughts on “Gender and the generations

  1. interesting that women move out and don’t move back more than men. That surprises me, since they are apt to make less and be less able to support themselves. What do you think about that?


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