The virus changed everything, didn’t it? Couples’ division of housework and childcare before and during the Corona crisis
Keywords:division of labor, gender, covid-19, pairfam
Objective: To contribute to the discussion about the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on gender (in)equality.
Background: We focus on a core aspect of gender (in)equality in intimate relationships, namely couples’ division of housework and childcare, and whether this has changed during the Corona crisis.
Method: Our descriptive analysis is based on pre-release data from the German Family Panel (pairfam; Wave 12) and its supplementary Corona web-survey (n=3,108).
Results: We observe no fundamental changes in established aggregate-level patterns of couples’ division of labor, but some shift towards the extremes ('traditional' and 'role reversal') of the distribution. Regarding changes within couples, there is an almost equal split between those in which the female partner’s share in housework and childcare increased and those in which it decreased. Particularly in previously more egalitarian arrangements, a substantial proportion of women is now more likely to be primarily responsible for everything. If male partners increased their relative contribution to housework and childcare, they rarely moved beyond the threshold of an equal split. Changes in employment hours were associated with adaptations of men's, but not women's, relative contribution to domestic and family responsibilities.
Conclusion: Our findings neither support the notion of a 'patriarchal pandemic', nor do they indicate that the Corona crisis might have fostered macro-level trends of gender convergence. We rather observe heterogeneous responses of couples to the 'Corona shock'.