It`s getting late today, please do the laundry - the influence of womens commuting on the distribution of household labor

Anna Stenpaß, University of Hamburg
Stefanie Kley, University of Hamburg

Modern societies are characterized by mobility and flexibility (e.g. internal/external migration or commuting). Today, commuting seems to be a part of someone’s everyday life. Whereas in past times, men were more affected by commuting than women, the number of commuting women increased. It is undeniable, that a long way to work has an influence on the life. Commuters have a minor satisfaction of life and their intimate relationships and are impaired by mental stress. Reasons are higher levels of stress and fewer leisure time.

Having a look on the domestic labor the question arises, who is in charge of managing the household. Do women still adopt the “lion’s share of housework” or take over the “second shift”, if they spent part of the day commuting to work and back home?

The study examines the effect of commuting on the distribution of domestic labor in heterosexual relationships. On the basis of the Panel Analysis of Intimate Relationships and Family Dynamics Study Germany (pairfam) panel analyses were conducted. Different types of domestic labor were considered: Time-consuming tasks like doing the household, groceries and childcare and irregular tasks like repairs and administrative tasks.

Pooled regression analyses are used to empirically test for evidence of various determinants. Analyses show, that higher commuting time decreases her investment in household labor, like doing the laundry, cleaning up, or preparing meals. Interestingly a higher commuting time of hers does not increase his investment in household tasks very much. Instead, the partners do share those tasks. On the other hand a higher commuting time of his comes along with a higher part of household tasks of hers, rather than an equal distribution. Additional analyses suggest that the partner who is more likely to take care for children is also in charge for the household labor.


Over the last decades there have been several changes in societies, changing gender relations and changes in work and family roles, higher rates of mobility as well as flexibility. One of the most significant changes has been the increase in women’s participation in the labor market. Until the 1960s paid work outside the home and unpaid housework have been divided according to gender. Men were considered as breadwinners who worked for payment, women as homemakers. They worked at home, doing the domestic labor without getting payed. Today women gain better and higher degrees than men and get more involved in the workforce than some decades ago. Earlier studies have shown, that those gains outside the home have not been adopted into the home – and into an egalitarian division of domestic labor (e.g. Fuwa 2004; Fuwa & Cohen 2007).

Due to globalization and the technological process individuals are no longer tied to one and the same place. Mobility and flexibility became crucial characteristics of modern societies. Today, commuting seems to be a part of someone’s everyday life. In past times, housing and working took place in the “family” home, today people are capable of overcoming longer ways and distances to work. Whereas in past times men were more affected by commuting than women, the number of commuting women increased over the last years. It is undeniable, that a long way to work has an influence on ones individual’s life. Studies showed, that commuters have a minor satisfaction of life and their intimate relationships and are more likely to be impaired by mental stress. Reasons are higher levels of stress and fewer leisure time (Feng and Boyle 2014).

The study examines the influence of women’s commuting on the distribution of domestic labor in heterosexual relationships in Germany. Do women still adopt the “lion’s share of housework” (Lachance-Grzeka & Bouchard 2010) or take over the “second shift” (Hochschild & Machung 2003), if they spent part of the day commuting to work and back home? Different types of domestic labor were considered: Time-consuming tasks like doing the household (including laundry, cleaning, preparation of meals, etc.), groceries and childcare and irregular tasks like repairs (on the house, car, etc.) and administrative tasks (money management, going to agencies, etc.).

Based on data from the Panel Analysis of Intimate Relationships and Family Dynamics (pairfam; http://www.pairfam.de/) a secondary analysis (waves 1-8) was conducted. To identify the influence of commuting on the distribution of household labor, the data is examined in light of the cooperative-bargaining theory as well as time-availability and doing gender approaches. According to the cooperative bargaining theory, the individual with the higher resources has advantages in negotiation. The time availability hypothesis is based on an economic household model. It assumes, that – depending on the household (size, children, employment) – there is a need in housework whose handling is time consuming. The person whose time is more valuable (like full-time employment) invests time in the labor market, whereas the other is in charge of the unpaid housework (Coverman 1985). The doing gender assumption supposes, that the individuals reproduce gender during their social interactions (West & Zimmerman 1987).

Pooled regression analyses (N~7.000) are used to empirically test for evidence of various determinants. Analyses show, that higher commuting time decreases her investment in household labor, like doing the laundry, cleaning up, or preparing meals. Interestingly a higher commuting time of hers does not increase his investment in household tasks. Instead, the partners do share those tasks. On the other hand a higher commuting time of his comes along with a higher part of household tasks of hers, rather than an equal distribution. In addition analyses suggest, that the partner, who is more likely to take care for children is in charge for the household labor. Regarding the minor time consuming tasks like being in charge of different repairs on the house/flat or car, there are hardly evidences for an influence of women’s (and men’s) commuting.

References

Coverman, S. (1985). Explaining husband’s participation in domestic labor. The Sociological Quarterly. 36, 1, p. 81-97.

Feng, Z. and Boyle, P. (2014). Do Long Journeys to Work Have Adverse Effects on Mental Health? Environment and Behavior 46, p. 609–625.

Fuwa, M. (2004). Macro-Level gender inequality and the division of household labor in 22 countries. American Sociological Review. 69, p. 751-767.

Fuwa, M. and Cohen, P. N. (2007). Housework and social policy. Social Science Research. 36, p. 512-530.

Hochschild, A. and Machung, A. (2003). The Second Shift. Penguin: London.

Lachance-Grzela, M. and Bouchard, G. (2010). Why Do Women Do the Lion’s Share of Housework? A Decade of Research. Sex Roles. 63, 11-12, p. 767-780.

West, C. and Zimmerman, D. H. (1987). Doing Gender. Gender and Society. 1, 2, p. 125-151.

Presented in Session 1233: Posters