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Studies examining the association of housework with earnings have not tested for causal directionality despite competing theories about causal ordering. Autonomy theory, and the relative resources, gender display, and gender deviance neutralization hypotheses suggest personal and relative earnings affect time in housework while human capital theory implies the opposite. Using data from N = 3,719 continuously married couples in Waves 1 and 2 of the National Survey of Families and Households and structural equation models, we find that wives' personal earnings and housework are reciprocally related. Her earnings have a stronger effect on housework than vice versa. For husbands, time in routine housework affects earnings only. We find little evidence that relative earnings affect husbands’ or wives’ housework time, rather we identify a significant effect of housework on one’s share of couple’s earnings. The results provide support for autonomy theory for wives and a human capital perspective for both spouses.


This manuscript is a currently unpublished working paper.

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