Using an experimental design part of the UK Household Longitudinal Study, MiSoC researcher Nicoletti (with Auspurg and Iacovou) investigates the reasons behind the gendered division of housework within couples. In particular, she assesses whether the fact that women do more housework than men may be explained by differences in preferences deriving from differences in gender identity between men and women. The research finds little evidence of any systematic gender differences in the preference for housework, suggesting that the reasons for the gendered division of housework lie elsewhere (Auspurg, Iacovou, Nicoletti 2017 Social Science Research).
It is worth noting that the finding that there are no systematic gender differences in preferences over housework allocations does not mean that there are no systematic gender differences in preferences over other domains, or in personality traits. For example, psychological studies have reported that women score more highly than men on the personality dimension of agreeableness. In the presence of a marital hold-up problem, women’s tendency to be more agreeable and less antagonistic may mean they end up investing more in housework, even if this is not economically the best choice for them. Put another way, even though women do not derive any more utility from doing housework than men do, they may derive a greater level of utility than men from avoiding conflict in a relationship, with the net result that they end up doing more housework.