Women's and men's earnings hurt by housework
Release Date: Mar 03, 2009
New research by Vanderbilt professor of law and economics Joni Hersch found that housework not only reduces the salaries of women, but also affects some men’s wages as well. Professor Hersch also found that women’s salaries are negatively impacted by housework regardless of their profession.
To complete her study, Professor Hersch used time diary data from the American Time Use Survey, which provided detailed information on all activities performed over a 24-hour period. She defined housework to include activities like cleaning, cooking, childcare, pet care, house, lawn and garden maintenance, grocery shopping, and household management.
Professor Hersch found that the total time expended by women on these activities dominated the time spent by men, with the bulk of women’s total housework time spent on cleaning and cooking. Overall, she found that women spent 53 percent more time on housework than men. Married women completed an average of 97 minutes per day on housework and unmarried women spent an average of 67 minutes a day on housework. Men completed an average of 29 minutes per day, regardless of marital status.
Based on her findings, each extra hour spent on daily housework reduced average wages by about 24 cents per hour for women and about 21 cents per hour for men.
Professor Hersch said the most surprising finding was that housework had a negative impact on the salaries of women, regardless of their occupation. “The effect is not limited to a few occupations, such as those requiring physical effort,” she said. “Rather, the effect spans most of the occupations in which women are employed.”
Professor Hersch found that 85 percent of the women in the sample were employed in occupations that suffered a housework-wage penalty, including highly compensated women in managerial and professional positions. In contrast, she found that housework lowered men’s wages in only some occupations – management, business, financial operations and sales-related occupations. These careers employed only 24 percent of the men in the sample Hersch used.
Although this study shows that wages are lower for those who do more housework, and women do far more housework than men, Professor Hersch said only a small part of the pay gap between men and women is explained by housework.
The full study can be found in an upcoming issue of the Review of Economics of the Household.
- Amy Wolf, Vanderbilt University Public Affairs