The John M. Olin Center

Paper Abstract

275. Joni Hersch, Marriage, Home Production, and Earnings, 2/00; subsequently published in Marriage and the Economy : Theory and Evidence from Advanced Industrial Societies, Shoshana Grossbard-Shechtman, ed. (New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 201-221..

Abstract: Whether employed in the labor market or not, married women on average spend considerably more time on home production than their husbands do. This paper examines labor market and legal issues associated with time spent on home production. The observed gender-based allocation of labor is consistent with economic theories of marriage and bargaining within the household. However, wives' contribution to family welfare via home production comes at a personal cost: time spent on housework has a substantial negative impact on own wages. Wives' willingness to incur this opportunity cost is also an indication that housework has real economic value.

Since economic loss in the event of disability or wrongful death includes the value of lost home services. As a result, valuing home production time is an essential component of personal injury litigation. Similarly, in many divorce cases, the main claim of wives to the assets accumulated during marriage is their contribution to home production. I summarize the empirical evidence on home production time and discuss methods of valuing this time. To demonstrate the salient legal issues, I discuss the Wendt v. Wendt divorce case, in which Lorna Wendt claimed that her role as a corporate wife was essential to her husband's career success, entitling her to a larger share of the marital assets than conventionally awarded.

275: PDF