Married Couples Split Housework Less Evenly than Cohabitating Couples

A new study reveals a considerable difference in how cohabitating couples and married couples divide housework responsibilities. The international study, conducted by researchers at North Carolina State University and George Mason University and published in the September edition of the Journal of Family Issues, finds that cohabitating couples tend to split household chores more equitably than married couples. Even though the study did not track cohabitating couples who made the transition to married life, the results suggest that “marriage alters the division of labor in a household,” even when both people in a marriage express egalitarian attitudes towards women and men, according to a press release from North Carolina State University.

Within marriages, the study finds that women do about twice as much housework as men, even after adjusting for employment status and other factors. While men living with their partners do more housework than married men, women still shoulder the burden of household chores.

Researchers in the study suggest that traditional views around marriage could affect how men and women divide domestic responsibilities. A couple living together may feel “a little more free to divide the housework the way they want to divide it, rather than the way society expects them to divide it,” said Dr. Theodore Greenstein, one of the study’s authors. As Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, told USA Today, “Cohabiting couples see themselves in more of a ‘you do your part and I’ll do mine’ roommate relationship.”


Journal of Family Issues 9/07; North Carolina State News Services 8/30/07; USA Today 8/30/07

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