Closed doors: Domestic space, household labor, and the reproduction of gender inequality in the pandemic lockdown

Michelle Cera, Eric Klinenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The pandemic offered a unique opportunity to shift gendered expectations and create a more equal division of domestic labor in the home. As an organizational unit, the home represents a significant domain to investigate gendered power relations and transformations. Change was especially possible for couples where employed fathers, who typically left for work, began to spend far more time at home. Surveys show that the opposite happened, and the share of domestic work done by women increased. This article explores the social dynamics that drove these trends. We draw on in-depth interviews with 20 couples (for a total of 40 parents). We leverage the variation between the accounts of each partner in a couple to explore how gender contributed to inequality in the home during the pandemic. We show that the physical and symbolic division of domestic space contributed to heightened gender inequalities during the pandemic. We divide our sample into three groups: cases where paternal income exceeds maternal income, cases where maternal income exceeds paternal income, and cases with comparable income levels for both parents. We demonstrate how the division of space, both physically and symbolically, contributes to the ongoing gender inequality experienced by all three groups. Our results expand on quantitative studies which show that gender inequality deepened during the pandemic by revealing the mechanisms and lived experinces behind the trend.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalGender, Work and Organization
StateAccepted/In press - 2024


  • COVID-19
  • family
  • gender
  • inequality
  • space

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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