Volume 39 - Article 39 | Pages 1039–1064  

Housework division and gender ideology: When do attitudes really matter?

By Renzo Carriero, Lorenzo Todesco


Background: Attitudes toward gender roles are one of the factors that have received most attention in the literature on housework division. Nevertheless, egalitarian attitudes often do not match egalitarian domestic behaviors.

Objective: The paper’s central hypothesis is that women’s ability to assert their egalitarian beliefs is linked to having sufficient personal resources in economic and cultural terms.

Methods: We use the 2013–2014 Italian time-use survey (N = 7,707 couples) and analyze how relative resources and women’s education moderate the relationship between gender ideology and housework division.

Results: Consistent with our hypothesis, for a woman, the effect of gender ideology is strongest when she earns roughly as much or more than her partner and when she holds a college degree. When the woman’s income is lower than the man’s, the effect of women’s gender ideology is quite small. If the woman does not have a degree, her egalitarian attitudes will not translate into her doing less housework.

Conclusions: Gender ideology matters, but a solid bargaining position is needed in order to put it into practice. Social policies promoting gender equality in education and the labor market can increase women’s capacity for translating egalitarian attitudes into actual behavior.

Contribution: This paper’s original contribution is in analyzing whether and how relative resources and education influence the effect of gender ideology on the division of housework. Moreover, our analysis goes beyond most existing studies in its rare combination of behavior measures collected through a reliable time-use diary procedure and information regarding partners’ gender ideology.

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