MPIDR Working Paper

Couples’ ideological pairings, relative income and housework sharing

Nitsche, N., Grunow, D., Hudde, A.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2023-033, 37 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (August 2023)
Open Access


Our study offers and empirically tests a new conceptual framework of couples’ housework sharing. We suggest that the partners’ joint gender ideology, or their ‘ideological pairings’ will determine their housework sharing. Further, we argue the link between couples’ relative socio-economic resources and their housework sharing likely depends on these ‘ideological pairings’. Our results, based on data from the German Panel Study of Family and Income Dynamics (pairfam) and mixed- and fixed-effects panel regressions, offer support for this conceptualization. First, we find egalitarian attitudinal duos to share housework the most equally, traditional attitudinal duos to share housework the most unequally, and mismatched attitudinal couples to lie in between. Second, our results indicate that only egalitarian duos further equalize housework sharing when she becomes the family’s main earner. Traditional duos don’t adjust their housework divisions even if she outearns him. Findings for mismatched couples are mixed, but don’t lend support for successful within-couple re-negotiations of housework divisions as her income share rises. Our study advances prior literature by conceptualizing the relevance of the partners’ joint attitudes for gendered domestic work divisions and by making complex interactions between sociological and economic aspects visible. Further, it underscores the importance of investigating couples as an essential meso-level institution in the reproduction of gender inequalities.

Keywords: Germany
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.