Skip to main content

Why men should share equally in housework

By Anne York, Special to CNN
April 9, 2013 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
Women spend more time than men engaged in household activities, Anne York points out.
Women spend more time than men engaged in household activities, Anne York points out.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Anne York: One of the causes of pay inequity is that women spend more time on housework
  • She says men are able to devote more time to work outside the home and to leisure
  • York: If men did their fair share at home, there would be no need for Equal Pay Day

Editor's note: Anne York is an associate professor of economics at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina.

(CNN) -- Equal Pay Day was established in 1996 by the National Committee on Pay Equity as a way to bring attention to the gender wage gap. Since women earn about three-quarters of what men earn on average, it is set to be commemorated Tuesday to symbolize that women have to work one year and a bit more than three months to earn the equivalent salary that a man earns in one year.

There are a variety of causes of the gender pay gap, including differences in occupational distribution, with women tending to congregate in lower-paying occupations; differences in the accumulation of human capital; and intentional and unintentional discrimination against women.

But even if we are able to magically fix the employment prospects between men and women such that none of these economic issues is a factor, we would still have one cultural issue that greatly affects the gender pay gap.

 Anne York
Anne York

Women spend a greater number of hours doing household and caregiving duties, which decreases the number of hours they can work for pay. Even for full-time workers, men worked on average 8.3 hours per day while women worked 7.8 hours per day in 2011.

The differences in the daily activities that men and women perform are captured by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' American Time Use Survey. The survey has 12 major categories of how we use our time, and women dominate eight of the 12 categories.

In 2011, the latest year available, we see the expected gender division in time use with women spending an average of two more hours per day than men doing the activities of personal care; household chores; purchasing goods and services; caring for and helping household and nonhousehold members; organizational, civic or religious activities; telephone calls, mail and email; and other activities not classified elsewhere in the survey.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



How did men allocate their time? They spent an average of an additional 40 minutes per day on sports and leisure compared with women, four additional minutes on eating and drinking, two additional minutes on educational activities, and 1 hour and 16 minutes additional time working and performing work-related activities.

TIME: The pay gap isn't as bad as you think

The two of the areas with the largest deficits for men were 47 fewer minutes per day on household activities and 22 fewer minutes on caring for and helping household and nonhousehold members.

There is also a large difference in the share of men and women who are engaged in these activities per day: 82.5% of women versus 65% of men were engaged in household activities and 41.6% of women versus 30.4% of men were engaged in caring for and helping household and nonhousehold members.

Voter who asked for equal pay speaks out
Fact check: The gender pay gap

When women are not working for pay, these statistics show that they are spending relatively more time on the so-called "second shift" of household and caregiving activities while men are enjoying relatively more leisure time. Other than breastfeeding and lifting heavy objects, there are no household and caregiving activities that have to be defined by one's gender.

It is only our cultural norm that is defining who does which task.

We all only have 24 hours per day to divide amongst our various activities. To achieve greater equity, men will need to reallocate their time toward housework and caregiving activities so that women can gain more time for working for pay and leisure. However, by doing some household activities together for greater efficiency, they both can gain more time for other pursuits.

Our choices for how we use our time need to be evaluated to ensure we are being equitable. Are brothers spending as much time caring for elderly parents as their sisters do? Are husbands washing and folding the clothes while their wives stay at work late to finish a project? Are fathers giving the children their baths while wives watch their favorite TV show? Do sons and daughters take turns doing certain chores so they both learn to be proficient in all household activities?

Fortunately, the time use trend has been moving in the direction of more equality. In 2003, the first year of the America Time Use Survey, women spent an extra 1.42 hours performing activities in the household and caregiving categories versus 1.17 hours in 2011.

Just as Equal Pay Day brings attention to the disparity in pay for men and women, it could be useful to also establish an Equal Housework Day to benchmark the progress men are making performing household and caregiving tasks.

Those 1.17 more hours per day that women spend on household and caregiving activities translates to 18 days per year. So we could set January 18 as Equal Housework Day to show that it takes men over 12.5 months to do what women do in 12 months.

As we achieve a cultural transformation regarding household and caregiving activities, then Equal Housework Day will eventually occur on December 31. And we would no longer need to commemorate Equal Pay Day as late as April.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Anne York.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1938 GMT (0338 HKT)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Martha Pease says the NFL commissioner shouldn't be judge and jury on player wrongdoing.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
It's time for a much needed public reckoning over U.S. use of torture, argues Donald P. Gregg.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1225 GMT (2025 HKT)
Peter Bergen says UK officials know the identity of the man who killed U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1128 GMT (1928 HKT)
Joe Torre and Esta Soler say much has been achieved since a landmark anti-violence law was passed.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1241 GMT (2041 HKT)
Jane Stoever: Society must grapple with a culture in which 1 in 3 teen girls and women suffer partner violence.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2036 GMT (0436 HKT)
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2211 GMT (0611 HKT)
Bill Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 went through 22 drafts. But he always insisted on including a call to service.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2218 GMT (0618 HKT)
Joe Amon asks: What turns a few cases of disease into thousands?
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1721 GMT (0121 HKT)
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2231 GMT (0631 HKT)
Analysts weigh in on the president's plans for addressing the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1327 GMT (2127 HKT)
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT