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The division of labor between generations of women in rural China

Social Science Research
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2003.09.005


Abstract Using the 1993 wave of the China Health and Nutrition Survey, I examine the work arrangement of coresiding mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law in rural China. The analyses suggest that work activities of daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law are not independent of each other, but rather reflect a coordination of activities. I use the typology of “inside” vs. “outside” work to describe the intergenerational work arrangement, which was used to depict traditional gender division of labor in China. In addition to the effect of individual resources and local labor market conditions, multivariate analysis documents that the division of labor between the generations of women is a type of family strategy as well as a result of power dynamics in the household. For example, the intergenerational division of labor responds to family needs, such as childcare demands, with the mother-in-law more likely to adjust her work activities than the daughter-in-law. The results also indicate that the work arrangement tends to favor the daughter-in-law the closer her natal kin lives. Analyses on housework arrangements also suggest that the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law share housework responsibilities.

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