Lifecourse pathways and housework time: Australia and the United Kingdom

Publication type

Conference Paper


BHPS-2009 Conference: the 2009 British Household Panel Survey Research Conference, 9-11 July 2009, Colchester, UK


Publication date

June 1, 2009


It is well-known that pathways through the lifecourse have changed in recent years. People are marrying later, having fewer children, living together in cohabiting relationships, separating and divorcing more frequently. These changes have consequences for understanding the organisation of domestic work. Although much previous work on domestic labour has focused on married couples, it is becoming increasingly clear that we need to consider how housework patterns vary at different stages of the lifecourse and in different kinds of households. This is important not just because research has shown that previous relationship experiences will affect the ways in which individuals and couples organise domestic labour in their current households. Our earlier work has shown that lifecourse events have a much greater affect on women’s housework time than men’s. But this research has focused on Australia, a country that has relatively low levels of institutional and cultural support for gender equality at home. In this paper we examine data from the Households, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey and the British Household Panel Study (BHPS) to investigate the impact of lifecourse pathways on domestic labour time. Our aim is to, first use HILDA to identify the joint influence of unobserved factors on the processes described above; second, to determine whether there is a selection effect from cohabitation into marriage, for women and men who are more prone to higher levels of domestic work; and third, to examine whether these patterns are more widespread by comparison with the UK, a country with broadly similar institutional and cultural features to Australia. We take a multilevel, multiprocess modelling approach. A simultaneous-equations model is used to jointly examine the relationships between time on domestic labour and the birth of a child, the transition from cohabitation to marriage and the dissolution of a union to allow for correlation between unobserved partner and person characteristics that impact on each process.






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