Married couples are sharing household chores more than ever before, but women still do more than men. While sociologists already know a great deal about gender differences in couples’ physical and emotional work, new research shows that there’s even more to gendered differences in household labor. Women are often responsible for the lion’s share of another form of invisible household work: cognitive labor.
Allison Daminger interviewed middle- and upper-middle class, married couples living in the Boston area. All were between 35-50 years old, had at least one Bachelor’s degree, and were living with at least one child younger than 5 years old. Most of the couples were heterosexual. Daminger interviewed each partner separately to encourage respondents to share their honest perspective.
Daminger found that, like emotional labor, cognitive labor is often invisible and is a frequent source of conflict. Overall, the women in the study were responsible for a larger amount of the anticipation and monitoring work than their male partners. But when it came to decision-making — the part of cognitive labor most closely linked to power and influence — partners shared the work of decision-making much more equally. Daminger argues that cognitive labor is thus an overlooked, yet potentially consequential, source of gender inequality at the household level.