Reinforcing separate spheres: The effect of spousal overwork on men's and women's employment in dual-earner households

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

133 Citations (Scopus)


This study examines whether long work hours exacerbate gender inequality. As working long hours becomes increasingly common, a normative conception of gender that prioritizes men's careers over women's careers in dual-earner households may pressure women to quit their jobs. I apply multilevel models to longitudinal data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation to show that having a husband who works long hours significantly increases a woman's likelihood of quitting, whereas having a wife who works long hours does not appear to increase a man's likelihood of quitting. This gendered pattern is more prominent among workers in professional and managerial occupations, where the norm of overwork and the culture of intensive parenting are strong. Furthermore, the effect is stronger among workers who have children. Findings suggest that overwork can reintroduce the separate spheres arrangement, consisting of breadwinning men and homemaking women, to many formerly dual-earner households.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-329
Number of pages27
JournalAmerican Sociological Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Apr 1


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this