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Policy, Preferences and Patriarchy: The Division of Domestic Labor in East Germany, West Germany and the United States

By LP Cooke


Individual agency observed in the gendered division of labor is shaped by structural factors, but only recently has evidence emerged that the effect of women’s resources varies systematically in its sociopolitical context. Here we use the 1994 International Social Survey Program to assess whether the relative effect of a proxy for women’s and men’s preferences—hallmark of individual choice—varies as well across three countries with divergent historical policy approaches regarding the private sphere. East German socialist policies required and supported women’s employment; West German policy promulgated a male breadwinner model, and U.S. policy primarily remains silent on the private sphere. The division of domestic tasks and relative strength of individual preferences on shifting it vary by region. In the former East Germany the division of domestic labor is more egalitarian and the effect of preferences is small but equal for the genders. In West Germany the division is more traditional and preference effects are greater, but gender differences in these are insignificant. The U.S. division of domestic task falls between the two German regions, and the gender difference in preference effects is the greatest, with U.S. men’s preferences predicting significantly more variance than do U.S. women’s. Consequently, allowing the market to dominate does not yield equal strength of preferences in the individual-level models used to predict the division of domestic tasks. This supports the dual-system feminist claims that capitalism can exacerbate nonmarket patriarchal hierarchies

Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2006
DOI identifier: 10.1093/sp
OAI identifier:

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