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Why Study Housework? Cleaning as a Window Into Power in Couples


George Mason University, 4400 University Drive MS 3G5, Fairfax, VA 22030.


Given the volume of research on the division of household labor, this article queries the purpose of continuing to study a phenomenon when the empirical results are remarkably consistent. This introductory article to the special issue asking,“Why study housework?” proffers one possible answer: Studying housework provides insight into the power and equity in intimate relationships. We document how power as a characteristic of social relations, rather than an individual characteristic, has been underexamined in the literature. We argue that by ignoring power, researchers studying housework are missing an opportunity to contribute to broader social scientific conversations on inequality.