Review of “Women Who Work” in New York Times

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I was one of the tens of thousands of people who subscribed to the failing New York Times after the election. Todays’ paper had a review of Ivanka Trump’s new book, in which Jennifer Senior describes it as “…a strawberry milkshake of inspirational quotes.”

This part was most relevant to the question of who does the dishes:

…a class bias at some point begins to reveal itself, and it’s not just in the business leaders she profiles — who, like Trump, are often the daughters of New York City’s elite. It’s in her discussion of Covey’s four-quadrant time-management grid, when she identifies grocery shopping as neither urgent nor important. (Do the groceries just magically appear in her fridge? Oh, wait. They probably do.) It’s in her confession that “honestly, I wasn’t treating myself to a massage or making much time for self-care” during the 2016 campaign. (Too busy.)

It’s in her description of her daily life, in which she somehow — until the election, anyway — managed to run her own company, serve as an executive vice president in the Trump Organization, train for a half marathon and spend time alone with each of her three children. Absent locating a wormhole in space, there’s really only one way to find time for all of these commitments, and that is with the help of staff. Yet her household help barely rates a mention in this discussion.Do the women who wash dishes in the homes of other households count as “women who work”? They’d better!  Who does the dishes in their homes? What do their quadrants look like?

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Three theories of housework and gender

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I’m continuing with posts looking at the research from 2000 by Bianchi, Milkie, Sayer and Robinson on the division of housework. On pages 193-196 they summarize three theoretical perspectives. In this context “theory” means an overall conceptual framework for understanding something. A general theory about how society works will lead to more specific hypotheses which researches can then test with data.

The three theories the authors present are:

  1. The time availability perspective
  2. The relative resources perspective
  3. The gender perspective

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Measuring the gender gap in housework: ratio vs. difference

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I’m continuing to look at some interesting passages from the 2000 article by Bianchi and her colleagues.

They have this observation about measuring the domestic labor gap:

It is customary in the research literature on gender differences in housework within households to focus on a ratio variable, either the ratio of husbands’ to wives’ housework hours or, more commonly, the percentage of total hours contributed by husbands. The problem with ratio dependent variables, particularly in regression analysis, is that it can be very difficult to sort out what a change in the dependent variable actually means, because the independent variable may be affecting the numerator of the ratio, the denominator, or both simultaneously. Husband’s share of housework can increase either because he does more or because his wife does less. We choose the difference measure for this analysis in order to present clear picture of how the independent variables affect not only the husband-wife gap in housework but also the components of that gap, the husband’s hours and the wife’s hours of housework.

Let me break that down for people who aren’t familiar with the statistics terminology. Continue reading

Why we shouldn’t focus only on married people

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I’m continuing with my posts about Bianchi, Sayer, Milkie, and Robinson’s work on the division of domestic labor. Last time I explained how their opening paragraph set up the key tension their article is addressing.

I’ll keep sharing some great passages in the article. (Again, you can read the whole thing for free, here.)

Early on, they explain why they include all household types, not just married people:

Most research about who does housework in American homes explores the allocation of domestic chores within married couples (see Shelton 1992 and South and Spitze 1994 for exceptions). We begin by focusing on all individuals regardless of marital status. Research that examines the effect of demographic, socioeconomic, and ideological variables on men’s and women’s housework time for all household types helps untangle how men and women in marriage differ from men and women outside marriage (Shelton 1992). Moreover, only by examining trends in household work for all individuals can one determine whether changes are a function of shifts in the compositional characteristics of the population (such as the decline in marriage) or social and cultural transformations (p. 193)

Let’s skip past a bunch of theory, methods and results tables—which we’ll come back to—to see how this was important to their findings. If you read my post about the abstract, you got a brief preview of this. Continue reading

Dissecting an excellent opening paragraph

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In my previous post, I pasted the abstract of Is Anyone Doing the Housework?: Trends in the Gender Division of Household Labor, highlighting the parts I found particularly interesting or important. The purpose of an abstract, of course, is to provide an overview of the entire article. This will let a researcher know if they want to read more of the article.

An opening paragraph should pull the reader in, making it clear why we should care about the question the article addresses.

Let’s look at the article’s opening paragraph: Continue reading

Abstracts are your friend: an overview of “Is Anyone Doing the Housework?”

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As promised, I’m going to look at some work by Suzanne Bianchi and her colleagues. Their 2000 article in Social Forces, Is Anyone Doing the Housework? Trends in the Gender Division of Household Labor is one of the most cited studies on the topic. (That link will take you to an un-gated copy of the article, by the way).

As I did with my post about Hanna Kleider’s article, I’m gong to paste the abstract and then bold the parts I find particularly interesting and relevant:

Time-diary data from representative samples of American adults show that the number of overall hours of domestic labor (excluding child care and shopping) has continued to decline steadily and predictably since 1965. This finding is mainly due to dramatic declines among women (both in and out of the paid labor market), who have cut their housework hours almost in half since the 1960s: about half of women’s 12-hour-per-week decline can be accounted for by compositional shifts—such as increased labor force participation, later marriage, and fewer children. In contrast, men’s housework time has almost doubled during this period (to the point where men were responsible for a third of housework in the 1990s), and only about 15% of their five-hour-per-week increase can be attributed to compositional factors. Parallel results on gender differences in housework were obtained from the National Survey of Families and Households estimate data, even though these produce figures 50% higher than diary data. Regression results examining factors related to wives’ and husbands’ housework hours show more support for the time-availability and relative-resource models of household production than for the gender perspective, although there is some support for the latter perspective as well.

Okay, so I bolded like half the abstract, but there you go.

Great passing mention of dishes in Jill Lepore’s New Yorker article on originalism

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The debate about confirming Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court has raised the ongoing debate about the role of history in court decisions, originalism, etc. Jill Lepore has a recent article in The New Yorker on the topic called Weaponizing the Past. There’s also a recent New Yorker podcast with her on the same topic.

In the article, there’s a great passing mention of dishes:

History, in one fashion or another, has a place in most constitutional arguments, as it does in most arguments of any kind, even those about whose turn it is to wash the dishes. Generally, appeals to tradition provide little relief for people who, historically, have been treated unfairly by the law. You can’t fight segregation, say, by an appeal to tradition; segregation was an entrenched American tradition. 

This definitely applies to dishes, too. Traditionally women do the dishes in the home, or hire working class women—often women of color—to do them. Changing that has meant challenging this tradition.

Next up: looking at some work by Suzanne Bianchi on the division of domestic labor

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Now that I’ve finished by series of posts about my experiences with dishes at home, I’m going to start blogging about academic research that will help us understand who does the dishes at home.

Almost a year ago, I had a blog post about an article by my friend Hanna Kleider on how social policy can influence the gendered division of labor. Her article’s bibliography helped me get stared reading the research on this topic.

I’m going to start by looking at quantitative work by Suzanne Bianchi and her colleagues.

She died in 2013 at age 61. The New York Times has a good obituary summarizing her life and research. Here’s part of it: Continue reading

Memories of dishes posts in order

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To make navigating easier, here they are in the order I wrote them:

Memories of dishes: partnered in Portland

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The view from the apartment where we lived in Portland’s South Waterfront neighborhood.

We’ve come to my final post in this series of vignettes about my experiences with domestic dishes. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. At some point I’ll write some posts about washing dishes in restaurants while in high school, but that fits under a different part of the project.

Last time I wrote about my time in Brasilia and conflict over dishes. I returned to North Carolina in early July 2011 and soon started dating the woman who is now my wife. We never fully moved in together while in graduate school, though I mostly lived at her apartment her last semester of medical school.

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