Various economic and sociological approaches have attempted to solve the puzzle of persistent gender inequality in the division of housework, but with mixed results. We propose a game-theoretic model in which the structural embeddedness of the partners is the key contingency predicting family members' behavior. Under the condition of strong embeddedness, partners behave as if they share a unitary utility function because they can safely assume their partners' gain will be their own gain. Under the condition of weak embeddedness, however, partners can no longer assume a flow of future fair rewards and thus they are in a bargaining situation. They try to decrease their share of housework by using their resources (options outside marriage/cohabitation) as threats in their bargaining with their partners. A representative sample of Chicago from the Chicago Health and Social Life Survey is analyzed as illustrative evidence for the model.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)