Outsourced Housework & Gender Inequality Cross-Nationally

Outsourcing household labor, a practice once reserved for wealthy families, is common in our modern world especially given the prominence of dual-earner family structures which leave a care gap, or a lack of time for tasks that would typically be unpaid. Despite the possibilities that outsourcing may hold for time-crunched families, our current understanding of outsourcing household labor neglects an issue at the core of the practice – gender inequality.

In my dissertation, I use cross-national data from the 2012 International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) Family and Changing Gender Roles Module to interrogate the linkages between outsourcing and gender inequality. I begin the dissertation by focusing on who is outsourcing household labor, investigating how individuals’ gender attitudes and country-level gender inequality impact the practice. Next, I look at the outcomes of outsourcing for those individuals and families who are able to pay for help, focusing on outcomes previous studies attribute to gender inequality – like the unequal division of household labor and uneven reports of well-being. Specifically, I ask if outsourcing saves time on housework and if so, is there a reduction in hours for both male and female partners? Additionally, I investigate outsourcing’s relationship to well-being; does outsourcing household labor leads to increased well-being, as measured by work-family conflict, life happiness, and work and life satisfaction? If outsourcing does increase well-being, is that the case for both male and female partners?

My dissertation fills a gap in our understanding of outsourcing household labor through its consideration of the ways in which micro and macro gender inequality shape the practice of outsourcing and also how outsourcing in return impacts outcomes of gender inequality.