Most young women – and men – prefer shared household responsibilities
There’s no shortage of advice for women these days about how to balance work and family — everything from becoming a supermom who can “lean in” at the workplace and do it all, to embracing the role of a full-time homemaker.
But when given a choice, the majority of young women say they would prefer an arrangement in which work and family responsibilities are shared equally between partners. What’s more, the majority of young men also favor such an arrangement.
These are findings of a study published in the American Sociological Review, co-authored by David S. Pedulla, assistant professor of sociology at The University of Texas at Austin; and Sarah Thébaud, assistant professor of sociology at the University of California-Santa Barbara.
In a national survey of unmarried, childless men and women between the ages of 18 and 32, the researchers asked respondents how they would ideally structure their relationship with a future spouse or partner in terms of balancing work and family.
The study found that when the option is made available to them, the majority of respondents — regardless of gender or education level — opt for a relationship in which they would share earning and household/caregiving responsibilities equally with their partner. Additionally, the study found that if workplace policies that support work-family balance — such as subsidized child care — are in place, women are even more likely to prefer an egalitarian relationship.
“Our study provides compelling evidence that if policies such as flexible scheduling, parental leave and subsidized child care were universally in place, women would be even more likely to want an egalitarian relationship with their partner and much less likely to want to be primarily responsible for housework and child care,” says Pedulla, who is also a faculty research associate in UT Austin’s Population Research Center. “These findings offer new insights that may be useful in guiding policymakers and organizations that are interested in reducing gender inequality and improving the work and family lives of young men and women.”
These findings also shed light on the factors contributing to persistent gender inequality and the ways in which government and organizational policies could be redesigned to support people’s ideal preferences for balancing work and family life.