Expecting Women To Handle Housework Hurts The Economy

Photographed by Ruby Yeh.
According to researchers at Princeton, the University of Toronto, and Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, men doing less housework in heterosexual relationships is bad for women — and bad for the economy.
"Women have less time for on-the-job labor because they spend more time doing housework than their male counterparts — so they miss out when they're working in fields that reward long hours," Bloomberg reports of the paper, which was published in the National Bureau of Economic Research. "A 10 percent cut in free time for women reduces their share in high-hour occupations by about 14 percent relative to men."
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Furthermore, the researchers found that since women were expected to hold things down at home, some choose to opt out of jobs and industries with long hours. Turning down opportunities for "market" (i.e. paid) labor in favor of unpaid, invisible labor at home, increases economic equality between women and their male partners, and in the economy as a whole. That 14% reduction in high-hour occupations "increases the gender wage gap by 11 percentage points," they explained.

It's worth thinking about why certain kinds of work are considered women's work, and how that impacts everyone at large.

Thus, a cycle of tradeoffs is established that's hard to get out of: Women who choose less time-intensive jobs can't beg off washing the dishes, doing the laundry, and cleaning the house, when they've made way for their partners to be out in the world making money.
At the end of the paper, the researchers suggest that understanding why some women are selecting lower-paying jobs (instead of simply blaming evolution or something for the gender pay gap), could lead to personal and occupational shifts. It's worth thinking about why certain kinds of work are considered women's work, and how that impacts everyone at large.
For example, earlier this year, Mike Reynolds, a father who runs the Everyday Girl Dad page on Facebook, gained a bit of Internet fame earlier this year when he wrote about the constant struggle to stop saying that dads "help" with house chores, when they're simply doing their share.
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Even in same sex partnerships (which tend to be more egalitarian than hetero ones), unpaid household labor continued to be divided by gender. A study presented last year at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA), found that "when there wasn’t a sex difference between partners, people relied on information about gender to guide their beliefs about what people should be doing."
"When respondents were asked to assign tasks between same-sex partners, traditionally female chores were generally given to the more feminine partner, and traditionally male tasks were typically assigned to the more masculine partner," the ASA said. "According to the researchers, 66 percent of respondents believed the more feminine partner should be responsible for buying groceries, 61 percent felt that partner should cook, and 58 percent thought that partner should clean the house and do the laundry. On the other hand, 67 percent of respondents believed that the more masculine partner should handle automobile maintenance and outdoor chores."
So, sure — men and masculine people are usually expected to handle machines and the great outdoors. But unless your car needs tuning up or the lawn needs to mowed daily, there's clearly a gendered skew in the effort expected of feminine partners at home — and those expectations are in dire need of change.
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