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My previous post summarized the results in Is Anyone Doing the Housework? Trends in the Gender Division of Household Labor, finally wrapping up the series of blog posts looking at that article.

That article was published in 2000, with the most recent data point in 1995. So what’s changed since then? In 2012 they wrote a brief (9 pages) reflection Housework: Who Did, Does or Will Do It, and How Much Does It Matter? for the 90th anniversary of the journal Social Forces. Unlike most academic journal articles, it’s not gated, and I highly recommend reading the entire thing if you’re interested in the topic.

The first thing it does is provide more time points for total housework, core housework and other housework, looking at all women and men, married women and men and married mothers and fathers: 1998-1999, 2003-2004 and 2009-2010. The table is on p. 57, spilling on to p. 58. Overall there aren’t radical changes in the overall patterns when extended through the three new time points.


Source: pixabay.com

The most interesting change, where the new time points aren’t just in the neighborhood of 1995, is in time spent on childcare. From 1995 to 2009-2010, married men increased their hours spent on childcare from 4.5 to 7.2 hours a week. Married women increased their hours from 11.2 to 13.7 during the same period. This reduces the ratio from 2.5 to 1.9, but is a substantial increase in the total hours being spent on childcare.

Indeed, the need to pay more attention to children and childcare is central to the discussion of how their views have changed (p. 58-61). They explain that “Newly married couples (in first marriages) share employment and housework relatively equally.” However, “the equality among married couples  diminishes as they transition to parenthood, a transition that solidifies women’s responsibility for household work and men’s for wage work.”

These two paragraphs dig deeper into this dynamic (59-60):

Wives’ and husbands’ time allocation may be more similar, but mothers’ and fathers’ work patterns remain quite different. Thus, we have come to appreciate the importance of studying the gender division of care work. Housework can be left undone – at least for awhile – and it can be “fit in” around busy work schedules. Consequently, it does not present the barrier to women’s market work and occupational mobility that caring for children often does. Young children have to be minded 24/7. If a mother (or father) of young children is to engage in an activity that is incompatible with child minding – and most paid work is – alternate arrangements for care of children must be made. Women reduce their paid work to care for children; men tend not to do this. Thus, gendered care giving retards movement toward gender equality in the labor market, perhaps far more so than gender differences in housework.

So understanding why women do so much more of the care work – of which housework is a component but not the most inflexible component – is central to the study of gender inequality, as is studying what might motivate men to more equally share in childcare activities. We do not yet have a very good understanding of which men – or the conditions under which men – involve themselves in the care of others. Quantitative within-country and across-country analyses provide mixed results about the effects of education and employment on men’s housework and childcare but concur that socioeconomic and family characteristics explain less for men than they do for women. Country variation suggests distinct cultural models of parenting that influence levels and gender gaps in childcare and associations with paid employment (Sayer & Gornick 2011).