Social Norms and Household Time Allocation

28 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2007

See all articles by Cristina Fernández

Cristina Fernández

University of Navarra, IESE Business School

Almudena Sevilla Sanz

University of Oxford


Economic theories of the household predict that increases in female relative human capital lead to decreases in female housework time. However, longitudinal and crosssectional evidence seems to contradict this implication. Women's share of home time fails to decrease despite increases in women's relative earnings. The literature has proposed social norms on the household division of labor as an alternative explanation. We use the 2002 03 Spanish Time Use Survey (STUS) to explore the presence of social norms associated to the household division of housework and childcare. First, we observe that wives that earn more than their husbands still undertake more than 50% of housework and childcare. Second, we find that a woman's relative share of housework decreases as her relative earnings increase, but only up to the point when she earns the same as her husband. Finally, independently of the definition of childcare, the relative time devoted to childcare does not vary with spouses' relative earnings. All these findings suggest that social norms might be an important factor in the division of household time.

Keywords: Household production and intrahousehold allocation, Time allocation, Social norms, Spain

JEL Classification: D13, J0, J1, Z134

Suggested Citation

Fernández, Cristina and Sevilla Sanz, Almudena, Social Norms and Household Time Allocation. IESE Business School Working Paper No. 648, Available at SSRN: or

Cristina Fernández (Contact Author)

University of Navarra, IESE Business School ( email )

Avenida Pearson 21
Barcelona, 08034

Almudena Sevilla Sanz

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

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