The Occupation of Housewife

  • Barbara R. Bergmann

Abstract

To be a housewife is to be a member of a very peculiar occupation—an occupation like no other. The nature of the duties to be performed, the method of payment, the form of supervision, the tenure system, the “market” in which the “workers” find “jobs,” and the physical hazards are all very different from the way things are in other occupations. The differences are so great that one tends not to think of a housewife as belonging to an occupation in the usual sense. It is commonly said that a housewife “doesn’t work” and that she “is unpaid.” The truth is, of course, that a housewife does work and does get recompense. Like other workers, she can quit or be fired. One dictionary defines an occupation as “an activity that serves as one’s regular source of livelihood.” Being a housewife is an activity that gets one food, clothing, and a place to live, and that certainly meets the dictionary’s definition of having an occupation.

Keywords

Transportation Income Expense Oxon Dole 

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Notes

  1. 2.
    John Kenneth Galbraith, Economics and the Public Purpose (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1973), chapter 4.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Matthew D. Bramlett and William D. Mosher, First Marriage Dissolution, Divorce, and Remarriage: United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, May 31, 2001). The estimates pertain to the year 1995.Google Scholar
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    Patricia Tjaden and Nancy Thoennes, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence (U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, July 2002).Google Scholar
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    Ruben Casteneda and Darragh Johnson, “Johnson, Ivey Mend Rift Over Abuse Case,” The Washington Post, March 18, 2003, p. B4.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    See Lena Graber and John Miller, “Wages for Housework: The Movement and the Numbers,” Dollars and Sense (September/October 2002): 45–46.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    For a different view of this matter, see Marilyn Waring, If Women Counted: A New Feminist Economics (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1988).Google Scholar
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    Lenore J. Weitzman, The Divorce Revolution (New York: The Free Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  8. 20.
    The discussion follows the ideas of Isabel V. Sawhill, “Developing Normative Standards for Child-Support Payments,” in Judith Cassetty (ed.), The Parental Child Support Obligation (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1983).Google Scholar
  9. 23.
    Rolande Cuvillier, “The Housewife-An Unjustified Financial Burden on the Community,” Journal of Social Policy 8 (January 1979): 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 24.
    For an explanation of how Social Security benefits are computed, see Barbara R. Bergmann, Is Social Security Broke? A Cartoon Guide to the Issues (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2001).Google Scholar
  11. 26.
    For detailed discussions of all of the major alternatives to the present system of computing Social Security benefits, see Richard V. Burkhouser and Karen C. Holden (eds), A Challenge to Social Security: The Changing Roles of Women and Men in American Society (New York: Academic Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  12. 28.
    Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mytique (New York: Norton, 1963).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Barbara R. Bergmann 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara R. Bergmann

There are no affiliations available

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