The autonomy perspective of housework time predicts that wives' housework time falls steadily as their earnings rise, because wives use additional financial resources to outsource or forego time in housework. We argue, however, that wives' ability to reduce their housework varies by household task. That is, we expect that increases in wives' earnings will allow them to forego or outsource some tasks, but not others. As a result, we hypothesize more rapid declines in wives' housework time for low-earning wives as their earnings increase than for high-earning wives who have already stopped performing household tasks that are the easiest and cheapest to outsource or forego. Using fixed-effects models and data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we find considerable support for our hypothesis. We further conclude that past evidence that wives who out-earn their husbands spend additional time in housework to compensate for their gender-deviant success in the labor market is due to the failure to account for the non-linear relationship between wives' absolute earnings and their housework time.
Keywords: PSID; autonomy; gender display; household labor.