Domestic equipment does not increase domestic work: a response to Bittman, Rice and Wajcman

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 1, 2004


Bittman, Rice and Wajcman (hereafter BR&W) reopen the old controversy over the ‘domestic labour paradox’. They deploy evidence which directly connects household ownership of domestic equipment to household members’ time allocations, suggesting paradoxically that possession of household equipment in effect adds to domestic labour rather than reducing it. There is a methodological trap, confusing evidence of cross-sectional differences between people for historical change in people’s behaviour. BR&W tell us that they are aware of the trap (in the guise of ‘unmeasured heterogeneity’). This, unfortunately, does not stop them falling into it. They are also guilty of a minor, though revealing, error of scholarship: they claim that the 1997 Australian time diary survey provides a ‘unique opportunity’ by collecting data on equipment in diarist’s households. In fact, a brief scan of the collected documentation on around 300 time-use studies worldwide, downloadable from reveals that many post-1980 diary studies do include this information. That it is infrequently used, reflects complexities of analysis and interpretation which, as we shall see, BR&W apparently prefer to ignore.

Published in

British Journal of Sociology

Volume and page numbers

Volume: 55 (3):425-431 , p.425 -431



Albert Sloman Library Periodicals *restricted to Univ. Essex registered users*



Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest