Husbands’ Participation in Housework and Child Care in South India

Nancy Luke, Brown University

Women’s labor force participation is set to increase dramatically with globalization, and an important question is if working wives can bargain for husbands’ participation in housework in regions such as India. We conducted a survey of 3300 female workers in a tea plantation in South India, where women are the chief breadwinners. This setting serves as a unique testing ground to examine the relationship between spouses’ relative earnings and men’s housework. We find a curvilinear relationship between husbands’ share of couple income and their participation in cooking, fuelwood collection, and child care. Husbands’ participation is lowest at the extremes of income share, supporting theories of bargaining and gender display. We also find varying thresholds of gender display by housework task. When wives earn 28% or more of income, husbands decrease their participation in fuelwood collection, while husbands decrease their contribution to cooking when wives earn 44% or more.

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Presented in Session 2: Men’s Roles in Families and Relationships