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

Blom, N. ORCID: 0000-0003-0742-4554 & Cooke, L. P. (2023). Wage Effects of Couples’ Divisions of Labour across the UK Wage Distribution. Work, Employment and Society, doi: 10.1177/09500170231180818


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.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Author(s) 2023. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (
Publisher Keywords: couples, division of labour, employment, gender, household labour, housework, relationships, unconditional quantile regression, United Kingdom, wages, work hours
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Violence and Society Centre
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