Outsourced Housework and Gender Differences in Housework Cross-Nationally

In my dissertation, I examine three questions regarding outcomes of outsourcing household labor using cross-national data from the 2012 International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) Family and Changing Gender Roles Module (ISSP Research Group 2016). I define outsourcing household labor as turning to market or other substitutes (e.g., paid services or help from extended family members) for the completion of household work that might otherwise be completed by family members living in the household. Specifically, I investigate (1) if outsourcing household labor reduces gender differences in the division of household labor, (2) if outsourcing creates more equitable perceptions of the division of household labor, and (3) what proportion of the negative association between women’s earnings and housework hours, which usually results in a more equal division of household labor between partners, can be explained by outsourcing. For each of these questions, I use of multi-level modeling techniques that allow for the examination of individual and family characteristics as well as country-level indicators of gender inequality in relation to outsourcing household labor (Rabe-Hesketh and Skrondal 2005; Robson and Pevalin 2016). Cross-national data paired with multi-level modeling allows me to embed individual and family characteristics in country context to better understand how various levels of the social world interact, as scholars have successfully demonstrated in previous studies of the division of household labor (Cooke and Baxter 2010; Fuwa 2004; Fuwa and Cohen 2007; Geist 2005; Geist and Cohen 2011; Hook 2006, 2010; Lewin-Epstein, Stier, and Braun 2006).

My study contributes to the research on outsourcing in a number of ways. First, I examine outsourcing through the lens of gender, investigating both how outsourcing may reduce gender differences in housework and improve perceptions of equity regarding the division of household labor, but also be shaped by country-level gender inequality, a measure that has yet to be examined in outsourcing research. Second, where most previous studies of outsourcing examine data from individual countries, by using ISSP data and multi-level statistical analyses, I am able to examine the impact of outsourcing household labor cross-nationally.