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Opting Out and Buying Out: Wives' Earnings and Housework Time


  • This article was edited by Suzanne Bianchi.

Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 426 Thompson St., No. 2050, Ann Arbor, MI 48106 (


It has been proposed that the negative association between wives' earnings and their time in housework is due to greater outsourcing of household labor by households with high-earning wives, but this hypothesis has not been tested directly. In a sample of dual-earner married couples in the Consumption and Activities Mail Survey of the Health and Retirement Study (N = 796), use of market substitutes for women's housework was found to be only weakly associated with wives' time cooking and cleaning. Furthermore, expenditures on market substitutes explain less than 15% of the earnings–housework time relationship. This suggests that use of market substitutes plays a smaller role in explaining variation in wives' time in household labor than has previously been hypothesized.