Wage Effects of Couples’ Divisions of Labour across the UK Wage Distribution

Niels Blom, Lynn Prince Cooke

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Specialisation and gender theories offer competing hypotheses of whether men’s and women’s wages rise or fall based on the couple’s division of household unpaid and paid labour, and how effects differ across the wage distribution. We test division effects by analysing British panel data using unconditional quantile regression with individual fixed effects, controlling for own hours in housework and employment. We find only high-wage men’s wages were significantly greater when their partners specialised in routine housework, and when they were the sole breadwinner. Conversely, low- and high-wage partnered women incurred significant wage penalties as their share of housework exceeded their partners’. Wages for low-wage men and median- and high-wage women also decreased as their share of household employment increased. We conclude only elite partnered men benefit from specialisation. Everyone else is either better off or no worse off with equitable household divisions of paid and unpaid work.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWork, Employment & Society
Early online date20 Jul 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The research was made possible with funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 680958, LP Cooke, PI). Opinions expressed here reflect only the authors’ views; the Agency is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains. Blom’s salary was supported by the UK Prevention Research Partnership (Violence, Health and Society; MR-VO49879/1), an initiative funded by UK Research and Innovation Councils, the Department of Health and Social Care (England) and the UK devolved administrations, and leading health research charities.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • General Social Sciences


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