Married Mixed-gender Couples’ Midlife Employment and Later Life Well-being and Housework

TitleMarried Mixed-gender Couples’ Midlife Employment and Later Life Well-being and Housework
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsWikle, JS, Yorgason, JB
JournalSex Roles
KeywordsCouples, Division of labor, Housework, Sex roles, Well Being

This study explored the role of midlife market-work arrangements of married mixed-gender couples on gendered experiences in emotional well-being and housework during the encore years. Working during midlife may shape long-term outcomes after couples leave the workforce and begin retirement. Using three theories of gender as a framework to understand work sharing in couples, the study theoretically connects work arrangements in midlife with long-term predictions of gender differences in couple emotional well-being and housework. Using longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study (2000–2015; N = 3,231), the study found that gender differences in housework were similar in male-earner and dual-earner couples during the encore years. However, women in male-earner marriages reported low levels of emotional well-being in the encore years, while men in dual-earner couples in mid-life reported high levels of well-being. The findings suggest more gendered experiences in midlife employment correlated with worse mental health in the encore years for women. Understanding midlife employment as a protective factor against depressive symptoms is useful for families, practitioners, and policymakers to be aware of as they seek to understand and mitigate drivers of poor mental health during the encore years. The study demonstrates a need for further development of dynamic theoretical models to explain gender differences over the life course.

Citation Key12538