For most people around the world, physical work takes up a great amount of time and energy every day. But what determines whether it is men or women who are working harder in households? In most hunter-gatherer societies, men are the hunters and women are the gatherers – with men seemingly walking the furthest. But what’s the labour breakdown in other societies?
We carried out a study of farming and herding groups in the Tibetan borderlands in rural China – an area with huge cultural diversity – to uncover which factors actually determine who works the hardest in a household, and why. Our results, published in Current Biology, shed light on the gender division of work across many different kinds of society.
The majority of adults across the world are married. Marriage is a contract, so one might expect roughly equal costs and benefits from the union for both parties. But unequal bargaining power in a household – such as one person threatening divorce – can lead to unequal contributions to the partnership.
We decided to test the hypothesis that leaving your natal area after heterosexual marriage to live with your spouse’s family may contribute to a higher level of workload. In such marriages, the new person typically isn’t related to,…