Article

Housework

Judith Treas and Anne Tatlock

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online November 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0099
Housework

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  • Sociology
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Housework contributes to the broad project of social reproduction. Household labor perpetuates the social structures associated with family, gender, inequality and the labor force. Provisioning families and keeping up the household all fall under the general rubric of non-market labor, that is, the unpaid work that includes not only housework, but also caring for family members. Because this takes place outside public view and falls largely to women, the value of housework to families and society has often been overlooked or discounted. Until the middle of the 20th century, household labor received little scholarly attention outside the applied field of home economics. As female employment rates increased, however, men’s and women’s lives converged in the realm of paid work, raising questions about why change came more slowly to private households. Although men do more work around the house than their fathers did a generation ago, women still do the lion’s share, and some chores remain stubbornly stereotyped as “women’s work.” Indeed, the allocation of housework is a telling indicator of gender inequality in individual households and societies. Housework also reflects on class inequality, because high-income women can hire poor women to do the job. Domestic arrangements are the outcome of both micro-level family circumstances and macro-level cultural and structural forces. Gender attitudes, partners’ time constraints, their relative resources in bargaining over the chores, and the presence of children illustrate the micro-level influences on the volume and distribution of housework. Cross-national differences in domestic practices demonstrate that the characteristics of social institutions and social policies shape intimate domestic arrangements. How the housework is managed matters for marital relationships, personal well-being, individual careers and population processes. The demand for household labor has created a transnational labor force of domestic workers with implications for global inequality.

Article.  10499 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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