Many studies reveal a gender gap in spousal care during late life. However, this gap could be an artifact of methodological limitations (small and unrepresentative cross-sectional samples). Using a data set that overcomes these limitations, we re-examine the question of gender differences in spousal care and housework adjustment when a serious illness occurs.
We use biannual waves between 2001 and 2015 of the German Socio-Economic Panel Study and growth-curve analyses. We follow couples longitudinally (identified in the household questionnaire) to analyze shifts in spousal care hours and housework plus errand hours that occur as a response to the spousal care need. We test for interactions with levels of care need and with gender.
We found that men increase their care hours as much as women do, resulting in similar care hours. They also increase their housework and errand hours more than women do. Yet at lower levels of spousal care need, women still do more housework and errands because they spent more time doing housework before the illness.
Even in a context of children’s decreasing availability to care for parents, male spouses assume the required caregiving role in systems relying on a mixture of public and private care.