Are Same-Sex Couples More Work-Life Equitable?

Mike and Peter and sonsTurns out women who are in relationships with men may have something to learn from same-sex couples when it comes to how chores at home are divvied up and how much time is devoted to work outside the home.

Women in different-sex couples are less satisfied with how household responsibilities are shared at home than men in same-sex couples; this is despite the fact that women in different-sex couples work fewer hours than men and women in same-sex couples, and men in different-sex couples. And, a greater proportion of those women stayed silent about how to share those responsibilities when they moved in with their male mate than men in same-sex relationships.Modern Families Stubblefield

That’s unfortunate news because couples who discussed work-life issues when they moved in together ended up happier with how roles at home were structured.

This is according to a study by Families and Work Institute released today titled Modern Families: Same- and Different-Sex Couples Negotiating at Home.

This national study, sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers, looks at how same-sex and different-sex couples share household responsibilities; how gender and the size of paychecks impacts those decisions; and how satisfiedmodern-families-logo-170x152couples are with the arrangements they’ve crafted.

“Debates about the best division of household responsibilities often focus on who does what, without examining how that situation came to be,” said Kenneth Matos, author of the report and Senior Director of Research for the Institute. “This study shows that the specific division of responsibilities may not be as important to satisfaction as how that division gets decided. It also shows that biting your tongue early on in a relationship can hurt for longer than one might think.”MF-Danielle, Xander and I 2015[1]

Here’s an overview of the differences and the similarities:

  • More same-sex couples (75%) than different-sex couples (58%) discussed their relative contributions to household finances upon moving in together.
  • Men in same-sex couples (4.18 out of a 5 point scale) had a higher level satisfaction with the division of household responsibilities than women in different-sex couples (3.82).
  • Division of labor is not unique to different-sex couples though they generally do so in ways that align with traditional gender and power roles. (Women, lower earners and those with fewer work hours tended to take primary responsibility for cooking, cleaning and laundry.)
  • More same-sex couples reported sharing routine child care (74%) and sick child care (62%) than different sex-couples (38% and 32%, respectively).
  • Men and women in both types of couples were less satisfied with the division of household responsibilities if they held back on discussing it when they moved in together.
  • A greater proportion of women in different-sex relationships (20%) in the study reported staying silent than men (11% for both same- and different-sex relationships). Women in same-sex relationships were in between. (Fifteen percent indicated they had stayed silent.)
  • Women in different-sex couples who work full time, work fewer hours per week than men in different-sex couples and women in same-sex couples.

MF Christina(6) Heather(32)  Nicholas(9) George(31) Brandon(11)For a full copy of the report, go here, and you can also see the press release here with key findings from the report.

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