Resource dependence theory focuses on spouses’ relative power, which derives from their access to own resources (often defined as income or education). Women’s access to money of their own gives them alternatives outside of marriage and allows them a ‘voice’ in household matters [Hir70] [Hob90]. Therefore, it grants them greater bargaining power. From this point of view, women's employment is likely to change the relative economic relationship between the spouses, thus narrowing the power gap between them in their contribution to household income [Bri94] [Bit03] [Blo60] [Eve04] [Ros87]. Because of fewer available alternatives to the relationship and when evaluating the equity of the spousal relationship, more dependent women are likely to accept, or may be forced into taking upon themselves, primary responsibility for running the household [Len94].
Put differently, the resource-dependence perspective suggests that the division of household tasks largely reflects the differential power of the spouses within the household, and this in turn is determined by their relative social statuses. This approach involves the assumption that spouses prefer not to engage in housework, and the spouse who can muster a greater amount of resources or can threaten to withdraw resources in spousal negotiations will therefore carry less of the household burden [Bla91] [Bri94] [Mar84]. To the extent that women are less able than their spouses to secure valuable resources for the household (e.g. income and symbolic rewards), they will carry most of the responsibility for household chores. Increasingly, studies have focused on a particular form of resource-power relations which views the division of labour as a function of economic dependence ‘… best defined in terms of one spouse’s reliance upon the other for his or her current income standard’1 (Brines, 1994:657).
-  Resource-dependence between spouses is typically defined with respect to earnings. Commonly, the difference in earnings of the two spouses is divided by the sum of their earnings. This results in a measure that ranges from –1 (typically indicating complete dependence of the female spouse) to +1 (indicating complete dependence of the male spouse).
- [Bit03] Bittman M., England P., Sayer L.C., Folbre N., Natheson G., 2003. When does gender trump money? Bargaining and time in household work. American Journal of Sociology, 109, 186-214.
- [Bla91] Blair S.L., Lichter D.T., 1991. Measuring the division of household labor: Gender, segregation of housework among American couples. Journal of Family Issues, 12, 91-116.
- [Blo60] Blood R., Wolfe D.M., 1960. Husbands and Wives. New York: Free Press.
- [Bri94] Brines J., 1994. Economic dependency, gender and the division of labor at home. American Journal of Sociology, 100, 652-688.
- [Eve04] Evertsson M., Nermo M., 2004. Dependence within families and the division of labor: Comparing Sweden and the United States. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 66, 1272-1286.
- [Hir70] Hirschman A.O., 1970. Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
- [Hob90] Hobson B., 1990. No Exit, No Voice: Women's Economic Dependency and the Welfare State. Acta Sociologica, 33 (3), 235-250.
- [Len94] Lennon M.C., Rosenfield S., 1994. Relative Fairness and the Division of Housework: The Importance of Options. American Journal of Sociology, 100 (2), 506-531.
- [Mar84] Maret E., Finlay B., 1984. The distribution of household labor among women in dual-earner families. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 46, 357-364.
- [Ros87] Ross C.E., 1987. The Devision of Labor at Home. Social Forces, 65, 816-833.