American men are doing about 16 hours of housework a week, up from 12 hours a week in 1965, according to a study by the Institute for Social Research (ISR). The weekly housework hours of American women have declined sharply since 1965, the study finds. But women are still doing much more housework than menabout 27 hours a week.
The findings are part of a study of time-use trends in the United States and other industrialized nations, conducted by ISR researchers F. Thomas Juster, Hiromi Ono and Frank Stafford with funding from the ISR Alfred P. Sloan Center for the Ethnography of Everyday Life.
For the study, the researchers analyzed data from time-diaries, considered the most accurate way to assess how people spend their time, supplementing the analysis with data from questionnaires asking men and women to recall how much time they spent on housework in an average week, including time spent cooking, cleaning and doing other work around the house.
While the number of hours men reported spending on such work increased steadily from 1965 to 1985, the increase stalled after that. This lack of recent growth in housework hours among men may reflect the strong labor market during the 1990s, says Stafford, an economist who directs the ISR
Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the source of much U.S. time-use data.
Vanishing housework seems to be a result of the good job market for women as well as men, Stafford says. But theres some reason to believe these low levels of housework will persist even in todays weaker job market, since our research shows that most people rate routine housework as the least enjoyable use of their time.
Despite the popular perception that Americans are working longer than ever, the time diary data clearly show that total work hoursdefined as labor market work plus houseworkdecreased substantially from 1965 to 1985 for both men and women. From 1989 to 1999, the questionnaire recall data indicate that paid work in the labor market increased by 10 percent for men and 17 percent for women, reflecting the decades strong job market and the increasing labor market participation of women. As a result, total work time for men increased by 8 percent over that decade. But given the drop in housework time for women, their total work time increased by only 2 percent. These changes are not large enough to explain why people feel like they have so much less free time these days, Juster says. It could be that more leisure time today involves scheduled activities, which make people feel busy rather than relaxed.
For their analysis, the researchers also examined trends in cross-national differences in time use, drawing on a wide variety of data collected since 1965 in Japan, Russia, Sweden, Canada, Finland and Hungary. Among their findings:
The data on U.S. housework time are from the ISR Panel Study of Income Dynamics, funded by the National Science Foundation, with additional funding for cross-national analyses from the United States-Japan Foundation.