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dishes_askedThe comic “You should’ve asked” by Emma has been going around my social media feeds. Anyone who knows me or has been reading this blog will not be surprised that I love it. I highly recommend reading it and then coming back to this post, but for me this frame summarizes the argument:


We’re more likely to draw connections to things already on our minds, and I recently finished The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home by Arlie Hochschild, originally published in 1989. In many ways “You should’ve asked” felt to me like it was illustrating one of the book’s themes.

From the introduction:

One reason women took a deeper interest than men in the problems of juggling work with family life is that even when husbands happily shared the hours of work, their wives felt more responsible for the home. More women kept track of doctors’ appointments, arranged play dates, and kept up with relatives. More mothers than father worried about the tail on a child’s Halloween costume or a birthday present for a school friend. While at work they were more likely to check in by phone with the baby-sitter. (p. 8 of the 2012 edition).

The Second Shift is primarily qualitative, providing fascinating observations about the families she observed, all dual-income couples with children. As someone who recently got married, I found the insights personally useful as well as useful for my project.

I jokingly refer to myself as a “mixed methods militant” and was fortunate to write a dissertation under an advisor who is also in that camp. So I think it’s good to pair The Second Shift with some quantitative research.

I have two main reasons. Taking a deep look at cases, doing the kind of research that yields the richness of the accounts in The Second Shift, inevitably limits the number of cases. This raises the question of how far we can generalize the findings. Secondly, while the revised edition updates some of the statistics, the core cases are all observations from the 1980’s. In other words, it’s about my parents’ generation and not mine; I certainly hope we’re continuing to make at least some progress in what Hochschild calls “the stalled revolution.”

The most relevant work to read with it is Taking on the Second Shift: Time Allocations and Time Pressures of U.S. Parents with Preschoolers by Melissa A. Milkie, Sara B. Raley and Suzanne M. Bianchi. The authors use the best available data examine the claims in The Second Shift that can be tested in this way. In addition to the pun in their title, I especially appreciated this table summarizing their findings:

table7Unfortunately, the article is gated, but there are a couple other articles on the topic that the journal, Social Forces, made available for free:

If you’ve been reading the blog, you’ll know I’ve been slowly sharing bits from the 2000 article. I hope to wrap that up soon. If you’re pressed for time I’d start with the 2012 article. It’s short, summarizes the key findings from the 2000 one, and has more recent data.

It’s only somewhat related, but here’s one that came out last year that I really enjoyed and is not gated:

Housework Now Takes Much Less Time: 85 Years of US Rural Women’s Time Use by Jonathan Gershuny and Teresa Atttracta Harms.