Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Katharine M. Donato


This dissertation focuses on how time allocated to domestic responsibilities affects the earnings of professionals. Although the earnings gap between women and men has narrowed, women are paid less than their male counterparts and a substantial part of the gender earnings gap remains unexplained. Women's growing entry into the full-time labor force has created new challenges for working women and dual-earner families. Professionals may manage domestic responsibilities differently than non professionals because they are likely to have jobs that offer higher pay and more autonomy. With fewer domestic demands placed on these households, we would expect to observe more gender equality in professionals' earnings than between women and men in the population as a whole. However, the earnings gap is largest between men and women with the highest levels of education. Using two waves of data from the National Survey of Families and Households, I examine how various domestic labor tasks including daily grind tasks, female- and male-type tasks, parent-child interaction activities, and elder care affect earnings. My study revealed expected and unexpected findings that taken together lack a convincing explanation. For example, as expected, professional women earned less than professional men, net of controls. The results also show that in the late 1980s, performing daily grind tasks reduced both women's and men's earnings and these inflexible tasks explained an additional 18 percent of the gender gap in earnings. I found evidence that female- and male-type tasks affected earnings differently than daily grind tasks by either increasing or not affecting professionals' earnings. This finding is consistent with the idea that flexible tasks do not interfere with paid labor and thereby do not reduce earnings. However, what was unexpected was that female-type tasks actually increased earnings. Contrary to expectations, there was no evidence that domestic labor affected professionals' earnings five years later in the early 1990s, although a substantial gender gap in earnings remained. Explanations for why the domestic labor effects on earnings found in the late 1980s did not persist in the 1990s are not clear-cut. It appears that domestic labor inconsistently affects the earnings of professionals.