Journal of Social Policy


Policy Pathways to Gender Power: State-Level Effects on the US Division of Housework

a1 School of Social Science, University of Queensland, Queensland 4072, Australia. Now at the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NF. email:

Article author query
cooke lp   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Across industrialised countries, men contribute one-third of the household time in domestic tasks despite women's rising labour force participation. Like a Russian doll, however, the private sphere of the household nests within broader socio-political institutions. Proposed here is a relative gender power model incorporating both individual and policy-derived resources to explain differences in the division of household tasks. The sensitivity of the model to state-level policy differences is tested using data from the second wave of the US National Survey of Families and Households. After controlling for women's individual resources, laws and policies enhancing women's economic circumstances in the event of a divorce such as receipt of transfers, child support and property settlement predict that men in couples perform a greater share of domestic tasks. This evidence confirms that the state can ameliorate gender hierarchies and inequality.