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Making Money, Doing Gender, or Being Essentialist?: Partner Characteristics and Americans’ Attitudes toward Housework

Sun, August 21, 2:30 to 4:10pm, TBA


How do relative income, gender, and sex shape Americans’ expectations for chores and childcare? Do these characteristics have different implications in heterosexual and same-sex couples? This study uses data from an original, nationally-representative survey experiment (N = 1,025) to capture the causal effects of partner characteristics on Americans’ attitudes toward housework. We randomly assigned respondents to vignette conditions describing either a heterosexual or same-sex couple, and asked them to assign chores and childcare tasks based on partners’ relative income, gender, and (for heterosexual couples) sex. We find that relative income is a stronger predictor for heterosexuals than same-sex couples, in that relative income predicts preferences for time spent on housework and responsibility for household tasks. Gender, conversely, is a stronger predictor for same-sex couples than heterosexuals. Yet, we find that sex differences among heterosexuals are by far the strongest predictor of housework attitudes, suggesting that Americans hold inherently essentialist beliefs about the division of household labor. Implications for theory and research on housework, time use, gender, and sexualities are discussed.


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