‘All Else Confusion’: What Time Use Surveys Show About Changes in Gender Equity

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Not so long ago most industrial societies believed that the private life of families should be organised around a division of male ‘provider’ and female ‘homemaker’. The poet, Lord Alfred Tennyson, believed only this arrangement accorded with nature and reason, and declared ‘all else confusion’. As we approach the end of the twentieth century it is clear that ‘providing’ is no longer the exclusive responsibility of men. However, opinion is divided as to whether women’s new responsibilities for paid employment will be offset by husbands’ increased responsibilities for home and family. Arlie Hochschild (1989) has complained of a ‘stalled revolution’ in men’s domestic responsibilities and warned that women are being obliged to work a ‘second shift’ after arriving home from (paid) work. At the other extreme the symmetrical family thesis assumes that women’s increasing income equality with men is part of larger process of convergence that will inevitably lead to equality in domestic responsibilities. Jonathan Gershuny’s theory of ‘lagged adaptation’ proposes a theoretical framework capable of reconciling these apparently opposed views. According to Gershuny, men’s domestic adaptation to their partner’s employment is delayed by short- and long-run processes. In this way both the ‘stalled revolution’ and the convergence of sex roles are to be expected. This paper examines the evidence for both short-run lags, using longitudinal data from the German Socio-economic Panel, and long-run lags using a cohort analysis of Australian time use data 1974-1992. While finding some support for the Gershuny theory, it concludes that women’s adaptations has been empirically the more important process.
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Bittman, Michael
Matheson, George
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