Housework
 
Estimated Number of Printed Pages: 8
 
TOPICS COVERED: Who knew? We all grumble about doing housework, but when we started researching, we had no idea how huge an issue housework really was. Depending on the culture, it's a huge part of family structures and dynamics. It's literally role defining. At the same time, there's more at stake than just a load of dirty laundry. Housework even effects marital happiness. A study in the Netherlands determined that division of household labor was a source for conflicts in 91 percent of its partnerships.* Which is going to sound gender roles are what we're going to address here. Well, yes, and no. We have information on gender roles here as well as in our memos on Family Structure. Also, for comparisons between paid and unpaid work, check out our page on How People Spend Their Time.

And, given the significance of housework, here's some information about the work itself. In Who's Doing It?, we have information on if husbands and wives do – or don't – share the chores. Note the husbands and wives' responses to that question – that isn't what they are actually doing – but it's what they think they are doing. And they do not agree.** In How Have Things Changed? we track some of the changes in time spent in housework over the past 40 years. And more importantly, we answer the question of why you remember your mother's house being so much cleaner and organized than yours. No, really – we think we do! And in What Really Changes Who Does It? we look at what really effects the household division of labor – is it women earning a living, education or Women's Lib? You'll probably be most surprised at those answers. We were.
 
 
MEMOS ON RELATED INFORMATION: Family Structure, How People Spend Their Time, Time Use (Analysis), Caregivers in the Workforce, Child Care, Modern Child Development (for information on children's time use)
 
 
Links to Sources for this material are available below. Please also see The Factbook Sources page for further information regarding Factbook sources and their availability.
 
 

PAGE INDEX:

 
 

WHO'S DOING IT?

HOW HAVE THINGS CHANGED?

WHAT REALLY CHANGES WHO DOES IT?
Is it more money? Is it more education? Is it Women's Lib?

 
 
 

WHO'S DOING IT?

 
 
 
Gender
is still the best single predictor who is spending how much time doing housework. And that's not true just in the U.S., but around the world, from England to Poland to Japan. 1.
 
 
 
Women
were reported to be doing the majority of the housework, in every nation but Russia in a 13-nation study. 2.
 
 
 
Men just "help out" when they do chores
It isn't your imagination. In the U.S., husbands do much less housework than their wives, and when they do actually do it, it's seen as "helping out" their wives – who are primarily responsible for these tasks. But don't just blame the men for this: studies show that, for at least some women, the men are actually discouraged from doing more. Why? One reason seems to be that these women don't believe the men are as good at tasks as they are. (But that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: if they are never allowed to do anything, then they don't get the opportunity to become proficient at it.) Another suggested reason is that women, not just men, define their own roles in terms of their domestic responsibilities, and it's just as threatening for them to give them up, as it is for men to take these traditionally-thought of as "female" tasks on. 3.
 
 
 
Just thinking about that pile of laundry stresses me out –
Women spend two to three hours a week of "mental housework" – thinking about how they're going to do it all. Men do too, but for about one to two hours a week. 4.
 
 
 
70-80 percent
Amount of the total domestic work done by American wives, regardless their employment status. 5.
 
 
 
50-60 percent
Amount of the total domestic work done by Chinese wives, regarding of their employment status. 6.
 
 
 
One in Five
Couples in Portugal who actually share all the main household chores. 7.
 
 
 
40 –
in Italy, one-fourth of employed women do 40 hours of housework. 8.
 
 
 
– to Zero
in Italy, one-fourth of employed men do no housework at all. 9.
 
 
 
1 hour 40 minutes
Average amount of time a British man spends each day on housework. 10.
 
 
 
Almost 3 hours
Average amount of time a British woman spends each day on housework. 11.
 
 
 
Yes, she is really spending all that time picking up after you –
In the U.S., women put in additional five hours a week in housework once they are married, while marriage does not significantly effect the number of hours a man does. 12.
 
 
 
It's the kids' fault, too –
Children under the age of 12 significantly increase time in housework for both American husbands and wives – but the increase is three times as much for the mother's as it is the husband's. 13.
 
 
 
Especially the boys' –
Perhaps setting a pattern of the future, while each girl aged 12 to 18 in the family increases a mother's housework by an hour – but doesn't change the father's housework. Boys the same age, however, add three hours a week of housework for their mothers, and almost one hour for husbands. 14.
 
 
 
U.S. whites –
do less housework than minorities. 15.
 
 
 
30.5 percent
of U.S. wives say the spouses do about equal amounts of housework. 16.
 
 
 
40.4 percent
of U.S. husbands say that the spouses do about equal amounts of housework. 17.
 
 
 
56.9 percent
of U.S. husbands surveyed who said that their wives always or usually do the housework. 18.
 
 
 
66.9 percent
of those men's wives who said they themselves always or usually do the housework. 19.
 
 
 
92.6 percent
of Japanese husbands surveyed who said their wives always or usually do the housework. 20.
 
 
 
97.8 percent
of those men's wives who said that they always or usually do the housework. 21.
 
 
 
31.3 percent
of Russian husbands surveyed who said that their wives always or usually do the housework. 22.
 
 
 
38.2 percent
of those men's wives who said they always or usually do the housework. 23.
 
 
Once there's a baby –
of Austrian men do less housework than they had before. 24.
 
 
215 minutes a day –
time spent by women in South Africa on housework. 25.
 
 
 
84 minutes a day –
time spent by men in South Africa on housework. 26.
 
 
 

WHO'S DOING IT?

WHAT REALLY CHANGES WHO DOES IT?

 
 
 

HOW HAVE THINGS CHANGED?

 
 
 
Why you feel like your mother's house was so much cleaner and more organized than yours –

Because it probably was. But it isn't because she was a better housekeeper than you are. It's that she took twice as much time to do everything as you do.

Interestingly, in the 1990s, U.S. women spent about half the time on housework as they had 30 years earlier (17.5 hours down from 30 each week), while men, on the other hand, were spending just over twice the time they had spent (10 hours up from 4.9).

That means women now only do 1.8 hours of household work for every hour a man does –compared to the six-fold difference in 1960s. But the men's work doesn't make up for the decrease in women's hours. And men's hours haven't really changed since 1985. So one sociologist decided that, yes, we are doing some things faster – with new gadgets like the microwave and the washer/dryer – but we're also relying on outside help for more of housework, and – probably more to the point – we are just not doing the rest.

The reduction in women doing household labor, with an increase (but disproportional one) in men's work is happening elsewhere, too, such as in The Netherlands. 27.

 
 
Increased –
the amount of time fathers spend doing housework, across an analysis of 16 countries’ data from the 1960s to the 1990s. 28.
 
 
 
Decreased –
the amount of time full-time employed mothers spend doing housework, across an analysis of 16 countries’ data from the 1960s to the 1990s. 29.
 
 
 
 

WHO'S DOING IT?

HOW HAVE THINGS CHANGED?

 
 
 

WHAT REALLY CHANGES WHO DOES IT?

 

Is it more money? Is it more education? Is it Women's Lib?

 
 
 
Is it more money?
 

The more money a wife makes, the more likely her husband is to report that he does at least half of the household labor. But the women do not agree to the same amount of husband-done housework: they think it’s less. 30.
 
 
In households where women contribute to less than or up to half of the family’s income, the more money she makes, less housework she does. 31.
 
 
In households where women contribute to more than half of the family’s income, the more money she makes, more housework she does – by an increase of 5-6 hours each week. 32.
 
 
The amount of income brought in by his wife or he does not effect the man’s hours spent doing housework, so a woman’s role in the workplace effects her hours, not his. 33.
 
 
 
Is it more education?
 

Men with more educational attainment tend to do more household work. 34.
 
 
 
But it might be her – not his – education –
In the Netherlands, husbands do more housework if both spouses have a higher educational attainment – but it’s wife's increased education that is what really changes things – his education alone doesn't. 35.
 
 
 
So be more educated or the same age than he is –
U.S. women who have more education than their husbands and those who are the same age as them do less housework, compared to couples where the husband has more education, or is more than two years older than their wives. 36.
 

 
Is it Women's Lib?
 
 

If a wife thinks that women should be equal to men –
she does less housework, but her husband doesn't do more of it. 37.
 
 
 
If a wife thinks that men and women should share household work –
she does less housework, but her husband doesn't do more. 38.
 
 
 
If a husband thinks that men and women should share household work –
his wife does less . . . but he doesn't do more. 39.

______________________________________________________________________
 
* Hans-Joachim Schulze, General Monitoring Report, 2004, European Observatory on Family Matters (2004). p. 10. Archived at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/gm_04_Netherlands.pdf See also Stacy J. Rogers and Paul R. Amato, "Have Changes in Gender Relations Affected Marital Quality?" Social Forces, Vol. 79, No. 2., pp. 731-753 (December 2000). Archived at: highbeam: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?DOCID=1P1:87104840 jstor: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0037-7732%28200012%2979%3A2%3C731%3AHCIGRA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-S
** And not only that, but a recent study showed that perception who is doing what may not only be skewing the study of time use and housework, but it may also household relationships as well. In this study, the authors found that men and women may actually significantly underreport men's domestic activities, because the men don't perceive that they are doing work that should be reported in time diaries (or to their wives), or it's just one of several activity – and most time studies only report primary (or just secondary) activities. Meaning if you're an insane multitasker, even though you are doing twelve things at once, only the one you're paying the most attention usually counts. Yun-Suk Lee and Linda J. Waite, "Husbands’ and Wives’ Time Spent on Housework: A Comparison of Measures," Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 67, No. 2, pp. 328-336 (May 2005). Archived at: http://ejournals.ebsco.com.ezproxy.sfpl.org/direct.asp?ArticleID=4920AE548CE63EAF6636
1. Shannon N. Davis and Theodore N. Greenstein. "Cross-national Variations in the Division of Household Labor," Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 1260-1271 (December 2004). Available at: http://ejournals.ebsco.com/direct.asp?ArticleID=4DBEBB15FCDFA6098EC5
2. Shannon N. Davis and Theodore N. Greenstein. "Cross-national Variations in the Division of Household Labor," Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 1260-1271 (December 2004). Available at: http://ejournals.ebsco.com/direct.asp?ArticleID=4DBEBB15FCDFA6098EC5
3. See, for example, Xiaohe Xu, "Convergence or Divergence: The Transformation of Marriage and Relationships in Urban America and Urban China," Journal of Asian and African Studies (May 1, 1998). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?docid=1G1:20980086 and Suzanne M. Bianchi, Melissa A. Milkie, Liana C. Sayer, and John P. Robinson, "Is Anyone Doing the Housework? Trends in the Gender Division of Household Labor" Social Forces, Vol. 79, No. 1, pp. 191-228 (September 2000). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?DOCID=1G1:66274516
4. Yun-Suk Lee and Linda J. Waite, "Husbands’ and Wives’ Time Spent on Housework: A Comparison of Measures," Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 67, No. 2, pp. 328-336 (May 2005), pp. 333-334. Archived at: http://ejournals.ebsco.com.ezproxy.sfpl.org/direct.asp?ArticleID=4920AE548CE63EAF6636
5. Xiaohe Xu, "Convergence or Divergence: The Transformation of Marriage and Relationships in Urban America and Urban China," Journal of Asian and African Studies (May 1, 1998). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?docid=1G1:20980086
6. Xiaohe Xu, "Convergence or Divergence: The Transformation of Marriage and Relationships in Urban America and Urban China," Journal of Asian and African Studies (May 1, 1998). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?docid=1G1:20980086
7. According to a 1995 survey. Karin Wall, The Situation of Families in Portugal in the Late 1990s, European Observatory on Family Matters (2001), p. 2. Archived at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/gm_01_portugal_wall_en.pdf
8. Carla Power, "Staying Home With Mamma," Newsweek International (August 14, 2000). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?docid=1G1:64076546
9. Carla Power, "Staying Home With Mamma," Newsweek International (August 14, 2000). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?docid=1G1:64076546
10. That excludes shopping and child care. ________, "Jobs About the House," National Statistics Online, National Statistics, United Kingdom (January 30. 2003). Accessed at: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=288 on August 26, 2005.
11. That excludes shopping and child care. ________, "Jobs About the House," National Statistics Online, National Statistics, United Kingdom (January 30. 2003). Accessed at: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=288 on August 26, 2005.
12. Suzanne M. Bianchi, Melissa A. Milkie, Liana C. Sayer, and John P. Robinson, "Is Anyone Doing the Housework? Trends in the Gender Division of Household Labor" Social Forces, Vol. 79, No. 1, pp. 191-228 (September 2000). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?DOCID=1G1:66274516
13. Suzanne M. Bianchi, Melissa A. Milkie, Liana C. Sayer, and John P. Robinson, "Is Anyone Doing the Housework? Trends in the Gender Division of Household Labor" Social Forces, Vol. 79, No. 1, pp. 191-228 (September 2000). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?DOCID=1G1:66274516
14. Suzanne M. Bianchi, Melissa A. Milkie, Liana C. Sayer, and John P. Robinson, "Is Anyone Doing the Housework? Trends in the Gender Division of Household Labor" Social Forces, Vol. 79, No. 1, pp. 191-228 (September 2000). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?DOCID=1G1:66274516
15. Suzanne M. Bianchi, Melissa A. Milkie, Liana C. Sayer, and John P. Robinson, "Is Anyone Doing the Housework? Trends in the Gender Division of Household Labor" Social Forces, Vol. 79, No. 1, pp. 191-228 (September 2000). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?DOCID=1G1:66274516
16. Note that this isn't really who is doing it, but who they perceive to be doing it. Shannon N. Davis and Theodore N. Greenstein. "Cross-national Variations in the Division of Household Labor," Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 1260-1271 (December 2004). Available at: http://ejournals.ebsco.com/direct.asp?ArticleID=4DBEBB15FCDFA6098EC5
17. Note that this isn't really who is doing it, but who they perceive to be doing it. Shannon N. Davis and Theodore N. Greenstein. "Cross-national Variations in the Division of Household Labor," Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 1260-1271 (December 2004). Available at: http://ejournals.ebsco.com/direct.asp?ArticleID=4DBEBB15FCDFA6098EC5
18. Note that this isn't really who is doing it, but who they perceive to be doing it. Shannon N. Davis and Theodore N. Greenstein. "Cross-national Variations in the Division of Household Labor," Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 1260-1271 (December 2004). Available at: http://ejournals.ebsco.com/direct.asp?ArticleID=4DBEBB15FCDFA6098EC5
19. Note that this isn't really who is doing it, but who they perceive to be doing it. Shannon N. Davis and Theodore N. Greenstein. "Cross-national Variations in the Division of Household Labor," Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 1260-1271 (December 2004). Available at: http://ejournals.ebsco.com/direct.asp?ArticleID=4DBEBB15FCDFA6098EC5
20. Note that this isn't really who is doing it, but who they perceive to be doing it. Shannon N. Davis and Theodore N. Greenstein. "Cross-national Variations in the Division of Household Labor," Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 1260-1271 (December 2004). Available at: http://ejournals.ebsco.com/direct.asp?ArticleID=4DBEBB15FCDFA6098EC5
21. Note that this isn't really who is doing it, but who they perceive to be doing it. Shannon N. Davis and Theodore N. Greenstein. "Cross-national Variations in the Division of Household Labor," Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 1260-1271 (December 2004). Available at: http://ejournals.ebsco.com/direct.asp?ArticleID=4DBEBB15FCDFA6098EC5
22. Note that this isn't really who is doing it, but who they perceive to be doing it. Shannon N. Davis and Theodore N. Greenstein. "Cross-national Variations in the Division of Household Labor," Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 1260-1271 (December 2004). Available at: http://ejournals.ebsco.com/direct.asp?ArticleID=4DBEBB15FCDFA6098EC5
23. Note that this isn't really who is doing it, but who they perceive to be doing it. Shannon N. Davis and Theodore N. Greenstein. "Cross-national Variations in the Division of Household Labor," Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 1260-1271 (December 2004). Available at: http://ejournals.ebsco.com/direct.asp?ArticleID=4DBEBB15FCDFA6098EC5
24. Rudolf Richter and Sandra Kytir, "Families in Austria," Handbook of World Families, Bert N. Adams and Jan Trost (eds). Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 201-214 (2005), p. 204 (citation omitted). Available through: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0761927638/qid=1123855404/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/104-0887680-4192712?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
25. According to a 2002 survey. Susan C. Ziehl, "Families in South Africa," Handbook of World Families, Bert N. Adams and Jan Trost (eds). Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 47-63 (2005), p. 54. Available through: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0761927638/qid=1123855404/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/104-0887680-4192712?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
26. According to a 2002 survey. Susan C. Ziehl, "Families in South Africa," Handbook of World Families, Bert N. Adams and Jan Trost (eds). Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 47-63 (2005), p. 54. Available through: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0761927638/qid=1123855404/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/104-0887680-4192712?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
27. Source of American data for comment and chart: Suzanne M. Bianchi, Melissa A. Milkie, Liana C. Sayer, and John P. Robinson, "Is Anyone Doing the Housework? Trends in the Gender Division of Household Labor" Social Forces, Vol. 79, No. 1, pp. 191-228 (September 2000)(citations omitted). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?DOCID=1G1:66274516. For The Netherlands information, see Hans-Joachim Schulze, General Monitoring Report, 2004, European Observatory on Family Matters (2004). p. 10. Archived at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/gm_04_Netherlands.pdf
28. Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr., "Are Parents Investing Less Time in Children? Trends in Selected Industrialized Countries," Population and Development Review (December 1/2004)(citation omitted). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?docid=1G1:127196291
29. Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr., "Are Parents Investing Less Time in Children? Trends in Selected Industrialized Countries," Population and Development Review (December 1/2004)(citation omitted). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?docid=1G1:127196291
30. Note that this isn't really who is doing it, but who they perceive to be doing it. Shannon N. Davis and Theodore N. Greenstein. "Cross-national Variations in the Division of Household Labor," Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 1260-1271 (December 2004). Available at: http://ejournals.ebsco.com/direct.asp?ArticleID=4DBEBB15FCDFA6098EC5
31. According to studies in the US and Australia. Michael Bittman, Paula England, Nancy Folbre, and George Matheson, When Gender Trumps Money: Bargaining and Time in Household Work, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University (April 2001).
32. According to studies in the US and Australia. Michael Bittman, Paula England, Nancy Folbre, and George Matheson, When Gender Trumps Money: Bargaining and Time in Household Work, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University (April 2001).
33. According to studies in the US and Australia. Michael Bittman, Paula England, Nancy Folbre, and George Matheson, When Gender Trumps Money: Bargaining and Time in Household Work, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University (April 2001).
34. Michael Bittman, Paula England, Nancy Folbre, and George Matheson, When Gender Trumps Money: Bargaining and Time in Household Work, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University (April 2001). Cross-National Variations in the Division of Household Labor, Journal of Marriage and Family 66 (Dec. (2004)(PDF file) See also Shannon N. Davis and Theodore N. Greenstein, "Cross-national Variations in the Division of Household Labor," Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 1260-1271 (December 2004). Available at: http://ejournals.ebsco.com/direct.asp?ArticleID=4DBEBB15FCDFA6098EC5
35. Shannon N. Davis and Theodore N. Greenstein. "Cross-national Variations in the Division of Household Labor," Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 66, No. 5, pp. 1260-1271 (December 2004). Available at: http://ejournals.ebsco.com/direct.asp?ArticleID=4DBEBB15FCDFA6098EC5
36. Suzanne M. Bianchi, Melissa A. Milkie, Liana C. Sayer, and John P. Robinson, "Is Anyone Doing the Housework? Trends in the Gender Division of Household Labor" Social Forces, Vol. 79, No. 1, pp. 191-228 (September 2000). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?DOCID=1G1:66274516
37. Suzanne M. Bianchi, Melissa A. Milkie, Liana C. Sayer, and John P. Robinson, "Is Anyone Doing the Housework? Trends in the Gender Division of Household Labor" Social Forces, Vol. 79, No. 1, pp. 191-228 (September 2000). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?DOCID=1G1:66274516
38. Suzanne M. Bianchi, Melissa A. Milkie, Liana C. Sayer, and John P. Robinson, "Is Anyone Doing the Housework? Trends in the Gender Division of Household Labor" Social Forces, Vol. 79, No. 1, pp. 191-228 (September 2000). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?DOCID=1G1:66274516
39. Suzanne M. Bianchi, Melissa A. Milkie, Liana C. Sayer, and John P. Robinson, "Is Anyone Doing the Housework? Trends in the Gender Division of Household Labor" Social Forces, Vol. 79, No. 1, pp. 191-228 (September 2000). Archived at: http://www.highbeam.com/library/doc3.asp?DOCID=1G1:66274516