Renzo Carriero

To everyone his (her) own task. Theoretical models for the within-couple division of labour and empirical results in Turin and other Italian metropolitan cities

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In this article I review several theoretical approaches to the explanation of the intra-household division of labour, focusing in particular on the distribution of domestic chores. I consider three strands of sociological theory: the rational choice perspective (social exchange, relative resources and economic dependency), the gender perspective (gender socialization and "doing gender") and the Breen&Cook's (2005) game-theoretic framework. I derived some hypotheses testable with data from three time use surveys, conducted in Turin (1979 and 2002-03) and other Italian metropolitan cities (2002-03), and analysed the share of time devoted to core housework tasks by the wife in dual earner couples. Findings give scant support to the social exchange theory while suggesting a "doing gender" behaviour among couples not living in Turin. I conclude with some remarks on Breen&Cook's game-theoretical framework, which seems to be appealing because it explicitly takes into account the issue of the persistence of gender inequalities in the division of household labour, but assumes as granted that couples' divorce or separation is driven mainly by men's lack of cooperation in household tasks. This assumption is challenged by a welldocumented paradox found in the literature about perceived fairness and satisfaction in family relations.


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