Keeping House: The Economics and Politics of Family Care

  • Barbara R. Bergmann


Family well being depends on the performance of the chores that create a safe, healthy, and comfortable life—putting meals on the table, caring for the children, keeping clothing and living quarters neat and clean. The organization of family care services has undergone considerable change, as the number of housewives has dwindled. When the wife has a paid job, the family has the problem of replacing the services that she as a housewife would have provided. The employed wife may continue to do most or all of the same tasks she performed as a housewife. Or the husband may take a larger share of the housework. The couple can reduce the amount they have to do themselves by lowering their standard of housekeeping, or by purchasing a larger proportion of the family care services they use.


Child Care Family Care Housework Time Market Ethic Child Care Facility 
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    Arlie R. Hochschild, The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home (New York: Viking, 1989).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Harriet B. Presser and Virginia S. Cain, “Shift Work among Dual-Earner Couples with Children,” Science 219 (February 18, 1983): 876–879. Recent data on time use suggest that the percentage of families choosing this type of regime has not changed substantially.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 4.
    Most of the change occurred prior to 1986. Thereafter men’s contribution to family maintenance has shown little increase. See Suzanne M. Bianchi, Melissa A. Milkie, Liana C. Sayer, and John P. Robinson, “Is Anyone Doing the Housework? Trends in the Gender Division of Household Labor,” Social Forces 79, 1 (September 2000): 191–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    For a detailed discussion of work/family policies in the United States and other countries, including recommendations for changes in U.S. policies, see Janet C. Gornick and Marcia K. Meyers, Families that Work: Policies for Reconciling Parenthood and Employment (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2003).Google Scholar
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  7. See also Andrew Harvey and David Elliot, Time and Time Again (Ottawa: Employment and Immigration, 1983).Google Scholar
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    See the classic article on this subject by Pat Mainardi, “The Politics of Housework,” in Robin Morgan (ed.), Sisterhood is Powerful (New York: Vintage Books, Random House, 1970).Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    Myra Marx Ferree, “Sacrifice, Satisfaction and Social Change: Employment and the Family,” in Karen Brodkin Sacks and Dorothy Remy (eds), My Troubles Are Going to Have Trouble with Me (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1974), p. 73.Google Scholar
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© Barbara R. Bergmann 2005

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  • Barbara R. Bergmann

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