The gendered division of unpaid work: a cross cohort comparison

Wendy Sigle-Rushton, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

Only a small number of previous studies have examined the association between family background characteristics and subsequent divisions of unpaid domestic work during adulthood. Findings from these studies suggest that family experiences both early and later in the life course are significantly associated with subsequent adult behaviour, but issues related to social change over time have rarely been examined. This study seeks to extend previous work by examining the relationship between childhood, adolescent, and early adult experiences and the gendered division of housework later in the life course. Specifically we are interested in assessing whether parameter estimates linking early life course experiences to the gendered division of domestic work differ significantly across cohorts. To this end, we make use of prospective data from two British cohorts, born in 1958 and 1970. Although born only twelve years apart, the social contexts in which the two cohorts grew up were very different. The prospective nature of the data allows us to examine whether the size of the effects of earlier experiences on the gendered division of housework at about age 30 (at age 30 in the case of the 1970 cohort and age 33 in the case of the 1958 cohort) have changed. Preliminary findings suggest few cohort differences. Consistent with previous findings, those who experienced independent living before forming a partnership or who have been in a previous partnership (and presumably experienced some independent living between partnerships) report a more egalitarian division of housework. Also consistent with previous work, we find that the presence of children is associated with a more traditional division of housework. In contrast to previous studies, however, neither a high level of education nor experience of parental divorce is significantly associated with the gendered division of domestic work.

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Presented in Session 62: The Gender Division of Domestic Work