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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Nancy Folbre

Second Advisor

James Heintz

Third Advisor

Arindrajit Dube

Fourth Advisor

Banu Subramaniam

Subject Categories

Gender and Sexuality | Labor Economics | Other Economics | Political Economy


This dissertation provides a theoretical perspective on why women’s responsibility for care work lengthens their workday relative to men due to subsistence requirements, and draws attention to the relevance of other female family members. Building from theories of institutional bargaining research insights from “doing gender”, I develop a theoretical perspective on “doing care” that considers both bargaining power and social norms as determinants of differences in time allocation across and within gender. Conventional bargaining models predict that women who earn incomes can substitute hours of paid work for unpaid work. Using qualitative field work from India, and my theory of “doing care”, I argue, that women have limited ability to trade income-earning work for care work by persuading their husbands to do more. The immediacy of family needs and strong cultural obligations compel women to devote time to care work. This is particularly evident among the Adivasi (a low income social group with less binding gender norms than other groups), especially their ability to do less care work. Older women are also able to reduce care work with the presence of younger women, especially daughters-in-laws. In households without a co-resident daughter-in-law, the presence of older daughters lightens mother’s hours of direct and indirect care more than the presence of older sons. In this regard, I build on the work of Barcellos, Carvalho and Muney (2014), which examines whether sons receive more childcare than daughters, by considering how “doing care” complicates the occurrence of son preference in practice. As daughters may provide their mothers with more assistance with care work than sons, mothers’ in particular may not be as swayed by son preference in the allocation of time to care. Results from multivariate regression using information of married couples' as well as of mothers’ without co-resident daughters-in-law from the Indian Time Use Survey 1998-99 confirms my hypotheses. My results indicates that research on women’s care work in South Asia as well as on parents' differential treatment of boys and girls in terms of care-giving needs to consider the reliance of women on daughters-in-law and daughters respectively.