women's history housekeeping

The Reason Female Scientists Do Housework

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Dec 9, 2013    •    1368 Views

Nobel laureate Carol W. Greider was doing the wash when her early morning call came from Stockholm.

A study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) compared unpaid household work in 29 countries. Predictably, they concluded that women do a lot more than men.

But, where do men do the most? Denmark. The least? India. Specifically, in Denmark, women devote an hour more per day than men to “household jobs.” In India, the difference is 5 hours.

Researchers from Ohio State concluded that, even with more women in the work force, during the past 15 years men have not done significantly more housework nor women less. In 1998, men clocked in at slightly more than 1 1/2 hours for time devoted to laundry, cooking, floors while the total dropped to 81 minutes in 2003.

Sadly, female scientists at our top universities face the same situation.

Looking at Stanford and other similar colleges, in a recent study researchers concluded that “partnered women scientists” do 54% of the cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping and laundry while men with a similar professional status are responsible for 28% of the household tasks. In addition, because men tend to do more of the yard work and other jobs that are more sporadic, their time descends to 4.7 hours a week.

The study even found that for the women scientists who had stay-at-home partners (only 13 out of 1222 respondents), still the females did more housework than men with a similar domestic situation.

Comparative Advantage and housework


And that takes us to why we should care. It is all about comparative advantage. 10 hours a week for women are added to the 60 hours they devote to their paid jobs–10 hours those women could be doing something more valuable. Meanwhile, the housework could be done by someone who has less of an opportunity cost–a husband?

Sources and Resources: The studies on household abound. With an international perspective, the 30 page OECD paper is excellent while this Australian paper instead focuses on “lifecourse transitions.” I especially appreciated, though the study (source of above graph) on female scientists and this NY Times article on Wall Street women with stay-at-home husbands.

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