The gendered division of household labor and emerging technologies

The promise of artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles

Editor's note:

The authors are listed alphabetically. This is a Brookings Center on Regulation and Markets working paper. 


For decades, women have disproportionately managed household labor, including domestic tasks, child-rearing, elder care, etc. As women’s labor force participation has increased, and subsequently the number of dual-working families has grown, men have taken on a greater share of household labor and families increased reliance on support systems (e.g., childcare centers, paid home cleaners, etc.). While this has helped somewhat, the gender gap persists (even when women earn equal salaries as their male counterparts) largely due to the ‘stickiness’ of gender role expectations. Artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous vehicle technologies (AVs) are quickly emerging and having an impact on household labor tasks; this may have a positive impact on alleviating the gendered gap in household labor. We present an overview of existing research and introduce a framework for considering how these technologies might impact the gendered division of labor in the domestic sphere. In particular, we emphasize the promise of these technologies in reducing the mental load of managing household tasks. We also note that second-order effects, i.e., consequences for household members other than those directly using the technologies themselves, may play a role in alleviating the gender gap. We conclude by highlighting a few policy considerations and suggesting areas for future research.

Download the full working paper here.


  • Acknowledgements and disclosures

    The authors would like to thank The Brookings Institution and Dr. Sanjay Patnaik for inspiring and supporting this research. We also thank the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Manning School of Business for its ongoing support of our academic research. We thank Ekaterina Hertog (Oxford) and Belle Sawhill (Brookings Institution) both of whom provided insightful and helpful feedback on earlier iterations of this work.