Distributive justice in the household: A comparison of alternative theoretical models

Constance T. Gager, Bryndl Hohmann-Marriott

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We analyze the theoretical basis on which wives and husbands evaluate the fairness of the division of household labor. Using distributive justice theory, we argue that evaluations are based on beliefs about equality and equity rules and social comparisons. We developed a number of formal models to account for evaluations of housework fairness and compare these with data from the 1987 National Survey of Families and Households. We find that husbands' evaluations of fairness of the division of household labor are based on more traditional gender-based division of labor as their comparisons tend to be based on comparisons to other men's participation in housework. In contrast, wives' evaluations are based on both gender role norms and the justice principle of marital equality, as they tend to be based on comparisons between their spouse and themselves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-42
Number of pages38
JournalMarriage and Family Review
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2006



  • Distributive justice
  • Division of labor
  • Fairness
  • Housework

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