According to a study released yesterday by the University’s Institute of Social Research, the American home is undergoing slight, though important, renovations. The study, which focused on how husbands and wives spend their time and how work is divided within modern relationships, found a new household fixture – househusbands.
The study took information from time-usage diaries from 1965, 1975, 1985 and 1999, and divided the time spent into the categories of leisure, housework and market work. Participants were asked to record how many hours a week they spent cleaning, cooking and grocery shopping.
The results showed that husbands and live-in boyfriends are spending significantly more time doing household chores and are working less hours per week outside of the home than they did in 1965. That finding is reversed for women, who are spending less time doing household chores and more time at outside jobs.
“I think gender roles are becoming more equal over time,” Sociology Prof. Hiromi Ono said.
One of three University scientists who published the study, Ono said she believes this is good news for many married women – as well as to any other woman who might one day want to get married – because it shows that marriage is now easier and more enjoyable for women than it used to be.
“When you think of families in the old days, you think, mom stays at home and dad goes to work. But nowadays, both mom and dad go to work, and dad does housework with mom,” Ono said. “Maybe not as much, but he still does housework.”
One effect of the shift is that both men and women have more leisure time, though some may think they are busier today than past generations have been.
Thomas Juster, who also worked on the study, said he believes today’s hectic lifestyle is, in most cases, a matter of scheduling and not a matter of over-working.
“Leisure time is more scheduled than it used to be. … If your leisure time is scheduled, it might seem more like work,” Juster said. “It’s constrained.”
But the study also found women are still doing two-thirds of the housework while men are still doing two-thirds of work done for employers. It also showed that, while escalating from 12 hours per week in 1965 to 16 hours in 1985, the number of hours men spent on household chores steadied after 1985.
For that reason, Juster said he believes the study’s results show an ongoing – but not escalating – trend.
“I’d be very surprised if gender roles reversed,” he said.
Both Juster and Ono said the study’s results hold true in their own households.
“I think I’m doing more than I used to. I used to do hardly any,” Juster said. “I think there is a general perception that those tasks ought to be shared. The activity that people least prefer, out of all the activities you could think of, is housework. One person should not be stuck with it all.”
Marie, Juster’s wife of 45 years, said she agrees that men seem to be taking on more of their share of chores.
“Based upon the experience of our children, I think the men are doing much more because the two-career families, than I remember my father doing,” she said. “I think a lot of it depends on the background of the family. I think the more educated he is, the more he realizes that he should be contributing to the household activities.”