Professor Marshall

LESSON 7: The Economy and the Family

The Economy and the Family

Inside the home

We begin this lesson with a question: When (IF!) you marry and begin a family, how will you divide work inside and outside of the home? Thinking about your answer should lead you to understanding that there is nothing "natural" about the household division of labor. Likewise, there's no reason for occupations to be divided along gender lines. In other words, separate spheres are a myth!

Separate Spheres—Early Industrialization

Prior to the Industrial Revolution (IR) work was based inside the home and the home was the main economic unit. The entire household played a role in the economic survival of the home, from young children assisting with chores around the house, to older children and adults taking up all of the tasks necessary to keep the household running, from taking care of farm animals, to tending crops. Maintenance of the home was completed by the family, and food was grown and cooked inside the home. Some homes had "cottage industries" where the family produced goods. With a loom and a sheep, blankets could be spun. With a cow and a churn, butter and cheese could be made. These industries, which were encapsulated in home life, allowed families to barter goods with each other. Money was rarely a part of these systems of exchange with neighbors.

At the start of the IR, work was split between the inside and outside of the home, with the workplace becoming the economic unit. Around this same time, new ideas emerged about the family . This split in the work load separated the family into two spheres—further, it separated women from men. Because one of the primary roles for women was to bear children, women were more closely tied to the home than were men. The IR created a new pattern of work whereby men became public workers and earned money while women became more "domestic" and did not earn money. Over time, this split impacted different economic classes in different ways. This became known as "the myth of separate spheres."

The problems with separate spheres began in the late 19th century and primarly impacted upper and middle-class white women. As the IR got replaced the previous social struture, upper and middle-class white women became isolated from society due to domestic roles, esswentially making thme hostages in their homes, and confining what they could accomplish to tasks inside the home. Of course, this was not a problem for all classes of women during the IR. African American and working-class white women said that domesticity was an impossible "ideal" because they were out in the workforce earning paychecks and also having to tend to the home. For working class women, men working/earning money while women stayed home didn't fit the working class way of life. Thus, this group didn't experience separate spheres. In the working class, everyone worked outside the home

Today, we know the idea of separate spheres is a myth. The majority of women in the U.S. today are in the labor force outside the home and wives and mothers are likely to be in the paid labor force, even if/when home life is affected. This presents myriad problems from both the macro and the micro perspectives:


Instead of having this clear division of spheres which causes both structural problems for our society and individual problems for families, we could consider thinking about work and home life as being intimately related to each other. Work influences home and home influences work. If we think of both work life and home life as being equally important, we create understandings about society which don't value one gender over another in either sphere. As an example, Aulette explains research which has been done on the study of work, showing that even the study of work has been distorted by the myth of separate spheres.

The JOB Model

The GENDER Model

When male workers are studied, the JOB model is often used to explain their behavior. Studies tend to focus on things such as working conditions, career opportunities, work-related problems and expectations about careers

When female workers are studied, the GENDER model is often used to explain their behavior. The focus is shifted, and assumptions are made that female workers put family before work; there is also an emphasis placed on research on the personal characteristics of working women

Women in the Labor Force

As the above table illustrates, women in the (paid) labor force often experience different issues than do men. In addition to a different research focus (which highlights the potential hidden biases of researchers), women in the workforce are often under closer supervision than their male peers. They also often face discrimination when selecting physically demanding jobs or careers, as they are often assumed to have less physical stamina than men. Male supervisors often see women's experiences on the job as overshadowed/determined by family issues (for example, if a child is sick and must stay home). This places different kinds of pressures on women than men. Women are also sometimes reported as being "emotional" on the job in ways that are different (a code word for "wrong") than men. All of these issues highlight problems with using the GENDER model!

Men, Work and Family

Likewise, using a rigid gender roles approach to workplace issues highlights problems that men face on the job. Men have traditionally been seen as "breadwinners" but as over time more women have gone into the paid labor force, the title of "breadwinner" has been diminishing. Women entering the paid labor force have traditionally been viewed as "infringing" on the breadwinner role of men. Research on the roles of men as breadwinners has groupd men into two different kinds of categories, both of which have positive and negative attributes:

The Sole Breadwinner

The Involved Father

Negative: Having to work long hours outside the home

Negative: May have to give up a lot of family and personal relationships

Positive: Don't have the obligation/burden of housework

Positive: Do not have to watch or babysit their kids

Positive: Can be involved in children's lives

Negative: More challenging than the breadwinner father

Negative: The need to make money AND help with the children

Negative: Have to face the dilemma of going away for work, leaving the family

Problems that Men and Women Face

The roles of people change at both the macro and the micro levels. Structural (macro level) concerns are often related to how well (or poorly) the economy is functioning. As we experience challenging economic times, men are not able to remain in the roles of sole breadwinners. Economic decline means that most men are not able to earn enough money to solely care for their families. Coupled with this, women have ambitions and desire roles outside of the home. Women in the paid work force play a vital role in the economic well=being of most families today: women's incomes contribute to the household income. With the value of women's roles in the work place on the rise, we are seeing impacts to marriage rates. Many women are deferring marriage (or choosing not to marry at all) and instead choosing careers. Other structural forces are also at play. With women sometimes earning enough money to run their households without a partner, marriage rates are also falling. For women who have chosen to marry, today, with more work force options, they are more likely to leave unhappy marriages. No longer placing a social stigma on single parenting also plays a role in decreasing marriage rates overall.

Work and Family Life

Aulette points to research to show how work and family life are intimately connetcted. She finds five major effects:

  • Absorption: absorption is the demand or committment a job requires. Some jobs require little committment and at the end of the day, you can stop identifying with your occupation. Others require a substantial amount of time and effort and require you to always be in the role of your occupation. The latter of these two will have more significant impacts on the family
  • Time and timing: refers to the amount of time the job requires and the number of hours required to work per day or week, along with scheduled days of work. Time and timing affects families as jobs can require family to schedule activities around work schedules. For some families, work frequently get in the way of family life
  • Income: The amount of wages earned from the job and brought into the family; this has an effect on the family as it creates their socio-economic standing and can create gender inequality
  • World view: Cultural values/ideas promoted at work influence home behavior. Think about the JOB/GENDER models from above and how your views about work life have influenced your home life
  • Emotional climate: Social-psychological influences at work affect employees and family relationships; job satisfaction, tensions, and work pressures affect interactions with family members and may cause violence/neglect of family members

As we can see from everything above, family life and work life are intimately tied together. What happens in one realm influences the other. Today, family members have increasing numbers of expected roles they need to perform. Family members must work to support spouses, kids, injured/sick family members, and retired elders. Often, one income is not enough. With regard to family and work life, families perform many additonal functions alongside the prior roles: the family socializes new workers for the labor force, teaches children proper work values, attitudes, behaviors and teaches children communication skills and educates/trains them for specific types of work and job choices. Because of all of these roles and tasks the family needs to accomplish, home lives carry over to work and influence work relationships with coworkers and bosses. This can create conflict at home and at work.

When female workers engage in work conflicts:

They bring skills, values, and social connections related to their roles as wives/mothers

They use things they have learned as wives/mothers

Bringing the Family to Work

Coworkers have familial-like relationships

Sharing information/supporting each other while on the job

"Work families" develop

Bringing the Family to Work

Provides humanization of the workplace

Workplace doesn't feel as if workers are robots

Give support to our coworkers if they are being treated poorly

Create friendships, trust, shared

Can become the basis for collective action

Work together as if a family

Bringing the Family to Work

Develop ways in which to communicate across lines of race ethnicity, age, and job category

Just as family members have different ages/roles, so do workers

We use these tactics to cope and understand on the job

Family and work

When workers figure out their "place" in the structure of work, they are more likely to form unions

Karl Marx

False Consciousness

Not understanding where you fit in the "big picture"

Allows us to go on with life without true situational understanding

Class Consciousness

Insight about where you REALLY fit in relationship to the means of production

Understanding that YOUR labor is being used and without it, there would be no profits

Rallying for change to make working conditions better



Designed to protect workers

Before the FMLA

No federal legislation regulating medical leave

Few states had family/med. leave acts

Employees could be fired/punished for illness, pregnancy


1993 (2008-- guidelines added for military families)

Leave: 12 weeks in 12 months


care of spouse/child/parent/self

What kinds of employers must comply?

Public- and private-sector employer (50+ employees)


Criteria must be met about how long you've worked at a job, etc.


May split up for illness, or may take all at once (for example, for birth/adoption)



What is covered?

Serious health condition

Overnight hospital stay, Hospice

Anything that requires >3 days absence from school/work

Continuing treatment of chronic disease

Prenatal care

There are some impacts to health insurance

If you do not return to work, you may have to pay premiums which are otherwise covered by your employer

Restoration of job

Upon return, you must be given the same job w/same pay, etc.

comparison of maternity leave

Other countries' policies:


Expectant & new mothers get unemployment compensation

Parental leave--covered by law for 35 weeks

United Kingdom

Parental leave-covered by law for 39 weeks

Jobs must be retained for the person on leave


Parental leave-REQUIRED by law for 36 weeks AND compulsory 100% salary paid by employer

Optional parental leave for 44 additional weeks at 100% salary

Optional additional year of unpaid leave, job is available on return

comparison of maternity leave

US does NOT require paid maternity leave under FMLA-it only requires that employers give leave

There has been failure to reinstate, reduction in pay on return under FMLA

Only 30% of working women use FMLA benefits



The Invisible Occupation

Housework is INVISIBLE to everyone EXCEPT the person who performs it

Common belief in the US

The most important activities within the family are economic AND occur outside the home

The Invisible Occupation

Housework is a modern example of economic activities WITHIN the family

Bridges the "social institution of the economy" and "social institution of the family"

Bridges the MACRO and the MICRO

Almost half (44%) of adult women are full time housewives


<h3>Less Invisible</h3>


British student Ann Oakley began her thesis:

"Work Attitudes and Work Satisfaction of Housewives"

Met with "frank disbelief and patronizing jocularity" by her MALE professors

Despite the initial reception, Oakley's "discovery" of housework as worthy of sociological study earned her respect among scholars in the 1970s

The Feminist Enlightenment in Academia

What is it Like to be a Housewife?

Oakley interviewed women to gain insight on being a housewife, and what did she find?...

What is it Like to be a Housewife?

3 BIG problems:

It is "monotonous" and never ends

It consumes so much time that activities outside the home (education, art, unions, political office, etc.) are hindered

It is unpaid and, because we live in a society which values work by money:

The work is devalued AND

The worker is devalued

Who does Housework?

Women (duh!)

However housework done by men has tripled since the 1960s (Institute for Social Research)

Household chores are still likely to be divided by gender lines

Men do lawn-work and car maintenance

Outside the house, not traditionally thought of as "housework"

Women cooking and cleaning

Inside the house, traditionally thought of as "housework"


<h3>Who does the Housework?</h3>

The value of work done by housewives is estimated at $138,095 for those who stay at home

On any given day, those who work inside the home:

Two Surveys

6.6 hrs/wk - laundry

7.8 hrs/wk - janitorial services

15.4 hrs/wk - housekeeping

14.1 hrs/wk - cooking and shopping

TOTAL = about 44 Hours


Based on ESTIMATIONS of mothers and how much time they spend on each task


@ $25 per hour = $57,200 per year

American Time Use Survey (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

11.2 hrs/wk housekeeping

.77 hrs/wk - lawn care

11.3 hrs/wk - cooking and shopping

TOTAL = about 23 Hours


Based on time diaries



@ $25 per hour = $29,900 per year


<h3>How are Tasks Divided? </h3>


Hochschild (2nd Wave Feminist Researcher)

Men's & women's jobs can be identified by 3 characteristics…

How are Tasks Divided?

Women do most of the daily jobs/time bound jobs

EX: Cook dinner, an everyday task (unlike men, who, for example, mow lawn, a convenience task performed once a week)

Women more often multitask

Women are time and motion managers

Hustling children through their baths, homework, gathering everyone out of the door to school and work in the morning

Mothers become "villains"

Rushing children through maintenance tasks (eating, bathing, getting ready for school, homework)--children don't like this

How are Tasks Divided?

Social Class Variation

Class has little systematic effect on household DoL

Across the board, men do less housework than women

As family incomes rise, all people in the household do less housework

Proportionally, women still do more than men, even when housekeepers are hired, dinners are eaten out, and so on

How are Tasks Divided?

Children's Work in Families

Most children do chores

Both genders likely to clean their rooms

Girls care for elderly, do domestics; boys do yard work, take out trash

Single-parent children do more than 2-pt children

Reasons why parents assign chores

Want children to learn responsibility, build character

Lower income pts say that work children do @ home is essential

Not always good for children but for the survival of the household

Can lead to children not performing well in school

Full and part-time housewives

Full-time housewives

Do more housework than women who are in the paid labor force

Either doing a lot of unnecessary work OR

Those who work outside the home aren't doing housework that needs to be done

Today, FT housewives are troubled by the invisibility of their work, its lack of structure, and the enormity of the task

Full and part-time housewives

The Feminine Mystique, Betty Freidan, 1963

1950s homes were like prisons to many women

The "problem without a name"

Isolation, fatigue, depression, boring, thankless tasks that were never done, expectations of perfection

Full and part-time housewives

Research shows that employed mothers have higher self-esteem and less depression than housewives, but they also have more anxiety

Women who are employed are troubled by their inability to do it all and by the lack of support they receive from other members of the household (Enjoli)

High-tech housework

Since the 19th Century

Time spent doing housework has changed little

Tasks that are done have changed dramatically

High-tech housework


Housework Is about "household technology" systems

Housewives have changed from receivers of goods to transporters of goods

We have some tasks that have become more efficient and less time consuming (heating, plumbing, cooking…), others have become more time consuming (transportation instead of delivery services, cleaning standards have risen)


Tasks may have been more manual in the past, but the number of hours spent doing housework overall has not significantly decreased

Recent Additions to Tasks of Housewives

Cowan (1983)-historical research (1920-1980)

Provision of health care was

Inside the home in early part of 1900s

Outside the home in the latter part of the 1900s (to 1980)

Glazer (1990)

Provision flips

In 1983, Congress passes Social Security Amendments

Restricts reimbursement to hospitals for Medicaid/Medicare

Encourages use of outpatient clinics; PPL sent home sicker than they used to be

No longer allowed to stay in hospital to recuperate

Insurance industry saves more than $10 billion



<h3>Recent Additions to Tasks of Housewives</h3>

Many receiving homecare are older adults

Judy Singleton's (1998) research

Families are becoming older

Now, the avg married couple has more pts than children

Declining birthrates = less siblings =

More women as only children

More women will care of their elderly parents

Later age childbearing = women simultaneously care for young children and aging parents

Called "The Sandwich Generation"

When elders divorce, care for older adults shifts to adult children

83% of long-term care for dependent older adults is provided by relatives

Nearly all of this work is done by women, who:

Provide more hours and higher levels of care than do men

Reason for women take this role

External sources push them into caring for their relatives

Women caregivers believe that the sacrifices they make in caring for their parents are necessary and honorable


<h3>Caregiver- and Self-Stress Issues</h3>

When women are sandwiched between caring for self, elders, children, spouses, and working inside and outside the home, stress issues crop up

Can cause unintentional neglect of small children, elders

May cause relationship issues with spouse

Can cause self-neglect issues, depression and self-esteem concerns


<h3>The big question: Why is Housework Divided Unequally?</h3>


Housework is a powerful example of gender inequality

There are THREE general theoretical camps:

Socialization Theorists say that we learn how to do what society deems appropriate for our genders based on three primary sources

Rational Choice Theorists say we divide household work in a way that seems most rational

Feminist Theorists say household work is a reflection of gender inequality within society

Socializing Housewives

(The Socialization Theory Camp)

Socialization: processes by which we learn what is acceptable

Many kinds of socialization take place, gender socialization is major

Cahill's research: 3 sources of gender socialization

Adult models (children are much more likely to see WOMEN doing housework)

Cultural artifacts (encourage boys and girls to learn or not learn skills associated with certain housework chores or tasks)

Peers (how children interact with each other forms an important component of gender socialization)


This may not be true for all racial/ethnic groups

The Rational Choice Theory Camp

Becker (1981); economist who studied how households divide work

He argues households work as a team seeking to divide work in the most rational and effective manner


Who can earn the most money at a job outside the home?

Who is the most skilled at doing the housework?


Unequal work and the Politics of Gender (The Feminist Theory Camp)

Experiences in households

Mirror political experiences in the US

Women do more housework because they are unequal to men

Women are unequal to men because they do more housework

In order to remedy the unequal division of labor, we must devise ways to increase equality in the way housework is divided



Can Housework Cause Gender Inequality?

Gender inequality

Creates an unbalanced DoL in families

"Gender displays:" sex-specific ways of appearing, acting, feeling

Let people know what gender you are (Goffman)

Hair and clothing styles

Performing certain household tasks

Division of housework

Forces us to practice socially acceptable gender roles

Forces us to practice gender inequality


<h3>Can Gender Inequality within the Home be Altered?</h3>


Egalitarian Models

In some marriages, housework, specifically childcare, is divided equally between spouses

Encourages couples to behave in less gender-differentiated ways with their families


<h3>Can we change inequality in the division of housework?


60% of women work outside the home; labor-force participation is women and for men

Resolve at the micro level (strategies used by individual women):

Marry men who share work; actively try to change husbands who don't share work; passively try to manipulate husbands; become "supermoms;" cut back on work, marriage, self, and children

Strategies used by men:

Disaffiliating themselves; reducing need for tasks; substituting offerings; selectively encouraging wives

One solution is to encourage the adoption of more egalitarian gender ideologies

Hiring a Housekeeper

When sharing chores doesn't work

Some hire a housekeeper (if they can afford it)

Hiring a housekeeper can be problematic

It can create other problems like inequity between employer-employee

Race inequality, class inequality

Emotional labor extraction (Romero 1988, 1992)

Employers often use emotional tactics to control and subjugate domestic workers

Employers often have unrealistic expectations of domestic workers with regard household roles

Domestic work can mean long hours away from the worker's own home and family

Solving the Problem of Housework through Policy Change

Solutions for dividing housework:

Require that the person who works inside the home get paid

Government pay housewives for housework or at least have Social Security so housewives can retire with pensions

Socialize housework or make it the community's responsibility


Sweden's solution to household work:

Everyone pools economic resources in order to allow houses to divide work evenly


<h3>In the end…</h3>

About housework

Men and women have different experiences

Men do less work

Problematic due to housework going undone and wives not being happy about the work distribution

Possible Solution: to hire others for housework

Unfortunately, this can also be problematic


<h3>Micro-Macro Connection</h3>

Housework itself (meaning inside YOUR home) is a MICRO level activity

What we, as a society…

…believe about housework (our ideology)

…believe about who should DO housework

Race (especially in the past)

Gender (women do the housework)

Class (others do the housework for those who can pay)

….THESE are MACRO, or STRUCTURAL components of housework

The GENDER FACTORY (Berk, 1973)

How we treat housework inside the home (the MICRO) creates and sustains a MACRO level system of gender inequality