Volume 36 - Article 16 | Pages 501–524  

Division of housework and his and her view of housework fairness: A typology of Swedish couples

By Leah Ruppanner, Eva Bernhardt, Maria Brandén

This article is part of the Special Collection 20 "Finding Work‒Life Balance: History, Determinants, and Consequences of New Breadwinning Models in the Industrialized World"


Background: Housework studies have long documented a fairness paradox, whereby unequal divisions of housework are evaluated as fair. Gender equality, both at home and at work, is strongly normative in a highly egalitarian country like Sweden, but not always matched by an equally egalitarian situation in the family which are often viewed as fair.

Objective: To explore the relationship between housework-sharing and perceived fairness of this division, using both partners’ reports, to identify how Swedish couples cluster across these measures and what individual characteristics predict cluster membership.

Methods: Using the couple-level design of the 2009 wave of the Young Adult Panel Study (YAPS, n=1,026), we are able to advance the research field and evaluate housework experience within broader couple dynamics. Our approach is exploratory and develops a typology using latent class analysis.

Results: We identify six latent groups, with distinct features. The modal Swedish-couple category comprises those who share housework equally and agree that this arrangement is fair (33% of the couples). Applying a distributive justice perspective, we find that childhood socialization, presence of children in the household, and the distribution of employment, education, income, and egalitarianism across couples are important predictors of cluster membership.

Conclusions: We find that equal-sharing/fair couples are most common in the Swedish context, suggesting clear benefits from Sweden’s expansive gender policies. Yet, there seems to be a generational divide, whereby Swedish women who witnessed housework inequality in their parental home are increasingly dissatisfied when this inequality replicates in their own lives.

Contribution: Demonstrating that housework allocations, conflict and fairness may reflect different types of couples rather than associations across those measures.

Author's Affiliation

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Introduction to the Special Collection on Finding Work-Life Balance: History, Determinants, and Consequences of New Bread-Winning Models in the Industrialized World
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Sweden: Combining childbearing and gender equality
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