Volume 35 - Article 16 | Pages 455–470  

Fifty years of change updated: Cross-national gender convergence in housework

By Evrim Altintas, Oriel Sullivan


Background: Gendered trends in housework provide an important insight into changing gender inequality. In particular, they shed light on the debate over the stalling of the 'gender revolution'. Additionally, the gender division of housework is significantly related to couple well-being; disagreements over housework are among the major sources of marital conflict.

Objective: The objective is to bring the evidence on gendered trends in time spent on core housework up to date, and to investigate cross-national variation in those trends.

Methods: Using 66 time use surveys from 19 countries, we apply a random-intercept, random-slope model to investigate half a century of change in gender differences in housework (1961-2011).

Results: There is a general movement in the direction of greater gender equality, but with significant country differences in both the level and the pace of convergence. Specifically, there was a slowing of gender convergence from the late 1980s in those countries where men and women’s time in housework was already more equal, with steeper gender convergence continuing in those countries where the gender division of housework was less equal.

Conclusions: Our findings support the view that despite short-term stalls, slow-downs, and even reverses, as well as important differences in national policy contexts, the overall cross-national picture shows a continuing trend towards greater gender equality in the performance of housework.

Contribution: We update cross-national time use evidence on the gender division of housework to the end of the first decade of the 21st Century. In a multilevel framework, we show how the gender gap varies across time and between countries, net of other demographic variables.

Author's Affiliation

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