Great Expectations? Cohabitors Preferred and Actual Divisions of Labor

Amanda J. Miller, University of Indianapolis

Cohabitors often express preferences for relatively egalitarian divisions of household labor. Nonetheless, despite their preferences, many couples find themselves replicating traditionally gendered labor arrangements even within these less institutionalized unions. Here, we attempt to illuminate this disconnect by examining how working and middle class cohabitors discuss their expectations for dividing their household responsibilities as well as how they feel about their actual divisions of labor. We find that, while both men and women expect that she will do most of the housework or they will share it equally, working class men, in particular, often have no clear expectations for dividing the domestic work. Further, while working class expectations of equality are rarely met, when at least one middle class partner expects to share the household chores equally, the couple most often participates in an egalitarian exchange. Working class women were the least satisfied with their actual housework arrangements.

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Presented in Poster Session 5