This seems to point to a plausible explanation for why high-wage earners aren't outsourcing to members of their family or employing more paid labor: The opportunity costs may be too great.
Working women could press the issue of a more egalitarian division of labor with their husbands, but Brown thinks these working mothers may be making a conscious decision not to. Homes already represent a "second shift," so if a woman comes home after a full day of work to enjoy her family, the last thing she wants to do is fight her husband about housework.
Likewise, when one is paying someone to clean their house and cook their food, they have different expectations. If the house is not as noticeably clean as one would expect for the expense of a housekeeper, or the food ordered out is not as good as it should be, it would not only be frustrating, and yet another thing to manage.
Just as husbands could be assigned more work, so could children. Historically, children took on substantial tasks within the home by the time they were seven or eight years old. "For the first time, this isn't a part of the conversation because we don't see a full roster of chores as improving childhood," said Brown, herself a mother of young children. "I spend a lot of time thinking about the ways my precious little angels can develop themselves, and that includes being a relaxed entertainer when their friends come over and trash the place." Brown is purposefully cultivating a home in which her children want to socialize. That way, she can keep an eye on them throughout their teenage years, hopeful this will mean they emerge unscathed.
Women are unlikely to curtail the attention given to children, and as such, they are less likely to skimp on family meals. Killewald wrote that "cleaning is a more uniformly undesirable activity, whereas some forms of cooking are enjoyable for at least some wives." Some of the satisfaction garnered from cooking may stem from real enjoyment, but part of preparing meals for one's family is ensuring that children have proper diets. Working mothers may not trust that prepackaged meals cooked by others, whether it be housekeepers, markets, or restaurants, will adhere to the same standard.
Women of different socioeconomic backgrounds may log the same amount of hours in the workplace, but low-wage earners continue to spend more time on housework. Explanations for this are myriad, but Killewald suspects it has to do with a sense of pride. Perhaps a scientist gets far less satisfaction from having a clean home than her high-prestige career. And, of course, a high wage means that socializing can take place outside of the home with frequency, whereas a woman earning a lower wage is more likely to host friends and family in her home than a restaurant.
These kinds of studies are illuminating, but identifying the problem is only half of the battle. "The next step has to be having that managerial role more equally divided between husbands and wives," Killewald said.
Change may not be generations away. As the average marriage age rises, men are now living on their own for longer than ever before, which means they are building the necessary skills to manage an adult home. Co-managing the household is indeed a lofty goal, but it is more attainable than ever.