Felix Weinhardt (European University Viadrina) – Separate Housework Spheres

Joint work with Jonas Jessen, Sebastian Schweighofer-Kodritsch, and Jan Berkes

Abstract: Using novel time-use data from Germany before and after reunification, we document two facts: First, spouses that both work full-time exhibit the same housework pattern whether they do so voluntarily or due to a full-time mandate, as in the GDR. Second, men’s amount of housework is the same regardless of their spouse’s labour supply. We theoretically explain this pattern by the presence of two household goods and socially learnt gender-specific comparative advantage in their home production. We label this gender specialisation as separate housework spheres. We find that separation occurs along the lines of more time-intensive routine (female) vs. less time-intensive non-routine (male) housework, and the presence of children further exacerbates the resulting housework gender-gap. Evidence from gendered parent-child interaction and teenagers’ time-use supports intergenerational transmission. We discuss implications for child penalties, effects of shocks such as COVID-19, and policy aiming for gender equality.

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