Gendered Resources, Division of Housework, and Perceived Fairness—A Case in Urban China

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Abstract

Drawing upon equity and gender theories, we investigate Chinese couples' perceived fairness of the wife's disproportionately heavy household responsibility. Data come from in-depth interviews with 39 married couples in Beijing during the summer of 1998. Although housework division remained unequal among dual-earner couples, the majority of wives and husbands saw it as fair. We explore the notion of gendered resources by examining husbands' and wives' opinions about both paid and domestic work. We find that husband's breadwinner role and wife's housekeeper role retain their primary place in the family and that gender-role expectations produce gendered resources to both wives and husbands. These expectations release both the husbands, who have fulfilled the provider role, from the obligation to share housework equally, and the wives, who combine paid and domestic work, from an equal responsibility of breadwinning. Therefore, the failure to bring adequate gendered resources to a marriage, rather than the unequal distribution of housework, causes a sense of unfairness.

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