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gender divide

In two-income households, domestic chores are an ongoing source of marital stress.Ryan McVay/Getty Images

Studies have found the chores gap between women with the highest and lowest earnings is as large as the chores gap between men and women.

Jan Paul Heisig at Berlin's Social Science Research Centre detailed this "housework income gradient" in a 2009 study. Income inequality, a growing problem in many countries, makes the gap wider; the more appliances a household owns, the more the gap is narrowed.

In Brazil, the poorest women do 43 hours of housework a week, twice as much as the wealthiest women. In Britain and the United States, the gap between wealthy and poor women is between five and six hours. In almost all the 33 countries studied by Dr. Heisig, the richest women still do more housework, on average, than the poorest men.

The overall chores gap also varies widely among countries, positively influenced by liberal gender politics, a high percentage of working mothers, and policies such as publicly funded daycare and parental leaves. When their governments support gender equity, even indirectly, women have an easier time handing off the laundry.

Men are pretty good about caring for the sick and grabbing groceries – in a 2012 study of 32 countries, published in the European Sociological Review, only 16 per cent of husbands had never looked after an ill relative and 17 per cent had never bought milk.

But 26 per cent never cleaned, and 46 per cent never did the laundry. The authors concluded that men are more willing to pitch in when the task is occasional. When it comes to the lousy jobs, not so much. That's the real gap women might want to narrow.