Working women still do far more housework than working men

Sept. 3, 2019
Working women still do far more housework than working men

There’s no question that it’s difficult to work and run a household at the same time, but if you’re a woman with a full-time job, you might find you have even more odds stacked against you than you realized. Results of the latest American Time Use Survey (ATUS) by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that full-time working women still get stuck doing the bulk of household chores, including activities like housework and food prep, purchasing goods and services and caring for and helping children and members of the household — enough to eat up 21 hours every week. And of the men who tackle chores? They spend seven fewer hours on housework per week than women do. 

The ATUS, which shows the average amount of time in 2018 that Americans worked, did household activities and engaged in leisure and sports activities, uncovered these eyebrow-raising findings, as well:

  • Only about 20% of full-time employed men do any housework, such as cleaning or laundry, at all, compared with 49% of full-time employed women. 

  • Working women spend nearly twice as much time as men — 0.70 vs. 0.32 hours per day — caring for children or other household members.

The numbers alone are frustrating, but even more frustrating is the reality that not much has changed. In 2019, many of us like to think that marriages and partnerships are more equal, but life in modern households isn’t so different from how it was over 100 years ago. In 2008, economist Valerie A. Ramey conducted a study into how women’s roles changed since 1900. In 1900, women spent an average of 27 hours on household chores. In 2019, that number has gone down a whole six hours. That’s hardly equality.

When you look at the numbers, it’s no wonder so many women feel stressed, tired and overwhelmed. In recent years, the concept of the mental load — the unseen work that goes into scheduling appointments, remembering events, creating to-do lists and managing an entire household — has gone viral, in part, because women are so exhausted. The subject has inspired a slew of books, including this year’s “All The Rage” by Darcy Lockman and “The Mental Load” by Emma. A 2017 Harper’s Bazaar essay on the subject was shared nearly a million times.

Of course, there are partners and fathers out there who are stepping up and doing more than those in previous generations. But change is happening at a snail’s pace, and in some cases, those partners may actually be making things more complicated. In 2008, a study by the University of Michigan found that having a husband creates, on average, about seven more hours of housework per week for women. Meanwhile, having a wife saves men an hour of housework every week.

Tackling the inequalities at home will likely take more than drawing up a detailed chore list or asking a partner to take out the trash. It will require partners in relationships to view household chores and child care as equal responsibilities and to be more thoughtful in how they divvy up the workload and offer support to one another. Twenty-one hours of housework per week is basically a part-time job, and the last thing busy women need is a forced side gig as the maid, personal chef and default caregiver for the entire family.

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