East Equals West? Housework in the Two Germanies

Sabine Merz, University of Massachusetts

I apply Brines's (1994) analysis of the relationship between housework hours and economic dependency and gender display to Germany. Brines's work suggested that more economically dependent American men "do gender" by doing less than their expected share of housework because of the threat to their masculinity by being in an inferior economic situation compared to their female partners. My work using the German Socio-Economic Panel shows that German men in 1999 do not fit this model. East German men may never have been as affected by the socialist gender regime and therefore can easier recuse themselves from devalued tasks, such as housework. The results for German women from the former G.D.R. and F.R.G. show an unexpected sisterhood of common effects, that is, men's relative income measure matters and the greater his share of income the more housework she does. Thus, any gains women might have made before unification have disappeared under the new capitalist regime.

Presented in Poster Session 3: Families, Parenting, Adolescents, and Children