4.30.2007

What? Women don't work more hours than men?

According to this Slate article, which is based on this National Bureau of Economic Research research paper ("Total Work, Gender and Social Norms"), women and men in the United States do the same amount of work each day:
Throughout the world, men spend more time on market work, while women spend more time on homework. In the United States and other rich countries, men average 5.2 hours of market work a day and 2.7 hours of homework each day, while women average 3.4 hours of market work and 4.5 hours of homework per day. Adding these up, men work an average of 7.9 hours per day, while women work an average of—drum roll, please—7.9 hours per day. This is the first major finding of the new study. Whatever you may have heard on The View, when these economists accounted for market work and homework, men and women spent about the same amount of time each day working. The averages sound low because they include weekends and are based on a sample of adults that included stay-at-home parents as well as working ones, and other adults.
Okay, fine. But the article (and, I suppose, the study that inspired it), is a bit disingenuous and thus not as shocking as it intends to be. It does not distinguish between women who do "market work" (work that earns them money, as opposed to work they do at home for free) and women who don't, nor does it distinguish between mothers and non-mothers. The oft-cited claim that "women work more hours than men" (in total, not just housework or market work) is only in reference to women who do market work and have children at home (say, probably mostly married women between the ages of 30 and 50; I'm not sure how divorced women fit into this, although if they're the sole involved parent, they likely do more work than anyone). It makes sense to me that if you include all adults, including, say, lazy old me and women who are empty nesters, the "women work more hours than men" effect would disappear.

To me, the most interesting thing that the study found is that the poorer the country, the greater the difference between hours that men and women work. That is, women work longer hours than men in poor countries, longer than men but not by as much in medium countries, and the same amount as men in wealthy countries.

I imagine that this might be because housework takes more hours in poorer countries with less access to electricity and running water, or because housework takes fewer hours in countries where families hire non-related women to clean for them. (I am not sure that enough Americans hire cleaning help to make this much of a difference, though. I think it's more likely to be the washing machine, dishwasher, and cornucopia of frozen foods available here.1) However, among different segments of the American population (geographic and educational were the only ones I saw mentioned in the article, don't think they studied by race or class), men and women work about the same number of hours.

This was funny and somehow not surprising:
Although men in many rich countries do not work less than women, they do enjoy about 20 to 30 minutes more leisure per day (over an hour more in Italy) because they spend less time on sleep and other biological necessities. Men spend almost all of this additional leisure time watching television.

Other studies that I found to be more interesting than this one, because they don't lump all men and women together into massive, useless categories:
  • This linear study of how all members of a family spend their work and leisure time [PDF] from the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, shows that married women ages 25-64 who do market work (I'm assuming full time, although it doesn't specify) still do about three times as much housework as men:
    “In 1968, married women between the ages of 25 and 64 did an average of 2,000 hours of housework a year – basically as much time as a full-time job,” says Stafford. “Today, working women do an average of 25 hours a week of housework – that’s about 1,000 hours a year.” The amount of housework men do has also changed. Instead of doing about 3.5 hours a week, they’re now up to about 7 hours a week. But that’s still less than a third of the time working women spend.
    These statistics are much more similar to the ones that I'm used to hearing, which makes sense, since it's only talking about married women between 25-64 who work outside the home. They're also a bit misleading, since they don't quantify how many hours-outside-the-home these women and men work, respectively. That is, if the men do 2/3 less housework but work 1/3 more hours outside the home, then the inequality, while still real, is much smaller.
  • Here is an article about a 1999 study regarding "overlapping" (fancy term for multi-tasking) and gender. Not surprisingly, women tend to multi-task more than men.2

  • Here is a link to the Gender Research Network's main page, although it looks like they haven't published a newsletter since 1999. Here are their publications on gender and intrahousehold issues, which go through 2000. I wonder what happened to them? This is all a subset of the International Food Policy Research Institute.

  • Here is an article about a study that found something very interesting, which may explain why even in cases when men and women have the same amount of work and leisure time, women feel like they work more.
    A study found that men who have more free time feel less rushed than men with less leisure time. But even when women have more time free from paid work and household tasks, they don't feel less rushed.

    The results suggest that women--particularly mothers--may feel the pressures of childcare and housework even when they have time for relaxation, said Liana Sayer, co-author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University.

    ...the study found that men who were married and had children didn't feel more rushed in their daily lives than single, childless men. But the odds of feeling sometimes or always rushed were 2.2 times higher for married women with children than it was for single, childless women.3
Back to work!

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1. I really have no idea how many Americans hire cleaning help. I tend to assume that no one except for "very rich" people hire cleaning help, but then I keep meeting people who hire cleaners or grew up with a housekeeper who came in every day to cook and clean, and I am continually forced to revise my assumptions about who is very rich or who hires cleaning help.)

2. Maria Sagrario Floro and Marjorie Miles. 1999. "Time Use and Overlapping Activities: An Econometric Analysis."

3. Mattingly, Marybeth and Liana C. Sayer. 2006. “Under Pressure: Trends and Gender Differences in the Relationship between Free Time and Feeling Rushed.” Journal of Marriage and Family 68(1): 205-221.