Headed toward equality

Kudos to my co-author, Claudia Gest — now at the University of Utah and formerly a postdoctoral scholar here at UNC — for the publication of “Headed Toward Equality? Housework Change in Comparative Perspective,” in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

Together we analyzed the division of housework within couples in 13 rich countries, to see if countries that had more equality pulled ahead — or if those that were less equal closed the gap — over an 8-year period. Here’s the abstract:

This paper examines gendered housework in the larger context of comparative social change, asking specifically whether cross-national differences in domestic labor patterns converge over time. Our analysis of data from 13 countries (N = 11,065) from the 1994 and 2002 International Social Survey Program (ISSP) confirmed that social context matters in shaping couples’ division of labor at home, but also showed that context affects patterns of change. Our results suggested that, compared to the most egalitarian countries, the shift in housework patterns was greatest among the most traditional countries. This provides support for the thesis of cultural convergence, but the evidence did not suggest that such convergence will lead to complete equality in the foreseeable future.

Our conclusion that the direction of change was toward convergence is captured in this figure, which shows where a typical couple would be on the less-equal-to-more-equal continuum in 2002 (the y-axis), based on where their country was in 1994 (the x-axis). Because the model shows couples on the left side (less equal in 1994) rising more than those on the right (more equal in 1994), that’s what we call convergence, or catching up in the direction of equality:

Overall, women still do most of the housework — that scale runs from -6.0, where women do everything, to +6.0, where men do everything.

(The link above takes you to the abstract, but the paper is behind a pay wall. If you ask me personally for a copy — from the publications page — I would be happy to share one.)

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