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Editorial
Doing Housework Isn't Just 'Nice' Of You, Fellas — It's Your Civic Duty
@micromonkey / Adobe Stock
Alex Wilson

It’s official — women still do more housework than men.

According to recent economic research data, women spend too much time on housework compared to men. So much so, in fact, that it’s not just hurting individual productivity at work; it’s also hurting U.S. productivity as a whole. When women put more focus on taking care of their homes, they avoid pursuing jobs that require (and reward) long work weeks. These lifestyle choices lead to significant gender gaps in employment, industry and pay.

Researchers with the National Bureau of Economics acknowledge that the way women spend their time at home affects their careers. “Our main message is that developing a theory of time allocation and occupational choice is important for understanding the forces that shape gender differences in labor,” the researchers write. “Our model generates large gaps in hours of work, occupational choices, and wages.”

That “large gap” hurts society as a whole.  If labor was distributed more evenly across genders, the welfare and productivity of both groups would increase. Workers would be better utilizing their individual time which would lead to more equality overall.

The gender disparities within office and workplace labor are further proved by the most recent iteration of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics’ annual American Time Use Survey.  Aside from reaffirming that women are statistically more likely to do more household work, here are some other major takeaways from the 2016 study:

  • Working from home is becoming more popular. From 2003 to 2016, the total amount of workers from home grew by 3%. That may not seem like a lot at first glance, but 3% of the United States’ working population is about 4.7 million individuals. That’s a lot of people moving from a cubicle to a home office.
  • On average, women spend more time taking care of children. It’s likely not a surprise that women double the amount of time physically taking care of children than men do. This gender gap was clear in each kind of childcare that the Bureau’s survey tracked, which ranged from physical care, attending children’s events and reading to/with children.
  • Americans watch TV and socialize to relax. On an average day, 96% of individuals over 15 engaged in some sort of leisure activity. Though men spent 44 minutes more per day in these activities than women, watching TV and socializing with peers were the top leisure activities for both groups.

That data is hard to stomach, but believe it or not — there is a silver lining.

Instead of choosing their home life over their career, women in the workplace are finding creative solutions to pursue both. Less than 50% of women engaged in housework between 2014 and 2016, leading researchers to believe that more women are outsourcing household tasks like laundry and home cleaning. The efficiency of online shopping has also likely contributed to this trend.

As younger groups of women enter the workforce with more education, they’ve become more affluent as well. This boost in income has allowed them to afford to work more and spend more time resting, relaxing, and having fun.

Labor in America is still not distributed in a gender-neutral way. But each step we take towards that goal is a step forward for women at work everywhere.

 

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