Gender Convergence in Housework Time: A Life Course and Cohort Perspective

Thomas Leopold, University of Amsterdam
Florian Schulz, University of Bamberg
Jan Skopek, Trinity College Dublin

This study examined life-course and cohort profiles of change in women’s and men’s housework time. We used panel data from 31 waves of the German SOEP (1985–2015; N = 201,261) to trace changes in housework time across the entire adult life course, from young adulthood until the end of life (ages 20 to 90). Combined with an equally large range of cohorts (1920 to 1990) our study paints a comprehensive picture of individual change and social change in housework time. The findings on life-course profiles of housework time showed sharp gender differences. Women’s housework time increased and peaked in younger adulthood and declined thereafter, whereas men’s housework time remained stably low for decades and increased only in older age. As a result, the maximum gender gap found in younger adulthood converged across the life course, narrowing by more than 50 percent. The findings on cohort profiles of housework time showed strong declines in women and moderate increases in men. As a result, the maximum gender gap was cut in half across 20 cohorts (1940 to 1960). Women’s and men’s cohort trends were remarkably linear and extended to the most recently born, supporting the notion of continued convergence in housework time.

Presented in Session 66: Gendered Division of Domestic and Care Work