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Risky Investment

theorizing housekeepers' disadvantageous human capital accumulation
TANAKA Sigeto <tsigeto(AT)nik.sal.tohoku.ac.jp>
(Graduate School of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University)
Paper to be read at the 20th World Congress, International Federation for Home Economics (IFHE-20), 2004-08-06 Kyoto.



(This is the abstract submitted to the IFHE-20 office. It is carried on the proceedings of the congress: International Federation for Home Economics (2004) Research and practitioner's paper abstracts, IHFE the 20th World Congress.)

This paper theorizes a widely believed, but rarely proven notion: the economic disadvantages of being a housekeeper. To be sure, we know that housekeepers are disadvantaged in paid work due to household responsibilities and thereby entail lower earnings. But this is insufficient to lay down the assumption that housekeepers are disadvantaged in the whole of the economic life, for the following reasons: (1) the disadvantages in paid work can be counterbalanced by the advantages in unpaid housework; (2) housekeepers often establish a household and enjoy an equal living standard to their non-housekeeper spouses. This paper aims to refute these two objections and to maintain the assumption of the disadvantage of housekeepers.

We apply human capital theory to discuss (1) the difference between paid work and housework in relation to the market and (2) how dissolution of a household (e.g., by divorce) impacts on housekeepers and non-housekeepers.

  1. Products of paid work are sold in the market, which efficiently finds demands for the products supplied; in contrast, products of housework are consumed within a small household, where demand may be easily depleted.
  2. Housekeepers take risks that can be concealed as long as they live a stable household life.

Housekeepers are disadvantaged in the whole of the economic life because they make a risky investment in human capital for housework instead of the safer investment for paid work.


human capital, altruism, intra-household bargaining, inequality

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Tohoku University / Faculty of Arts and Letters / Applied Japanese Linguistics / TANAKA Sigeto

Copyright (c) 2004 TANAKA Sigeto

E-mail: tsigeto(AT)nik.sal.tohoku.ac.jp

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