The more married women get paid, the less housework they will do

// 17 November 2007

The number of hours a married woman spends with the duster and mop goes down the more she earns, according to research by the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Indeed, every $7,500 a married women makes will shave off an hour of housework – figures are based on data from the US.

In the past, such research has concentrated on the relationship between the number of hours of housework done by married women and how much they earn in relation to their husbands.

Sanjiv Gupta, the sociologist behind the latest conclusions, spells out how the two are not necessarily related:

The critical element, Gupta says, is focusing on how much money a woman makes, not how much she makes compared to her spouse. “It’s only about the amount the woman earns,” Gupta says. “If she has a big paycheck, she’s going to spend less time doing housework.”

In earlier studies, Gupta says, there was a working assumption that how much housework a wife does was related to how much money she earned compared to the income of her husband. He says focusing on the ratio of earnings between the husband and wife tended to distort efforts to understand household dynamics. Once that distortion is removed, a clearer picture emerges.

However, the picture is not all that clear. What the press release doesn’t tell us is who is doing the housework? There are a number of possibilities: the first of which is obviously that the more a married woman earns, the more money she can spend on getting someone else (probably another woman) in to do the cleaning. The second is that her husband is chipping in a bit more – if this is the case, it is very interesting. Are women empowered by high-earning, high-respect jobs to demand a more equal arrangement in their relationships?

Also interesting, Gupta says that the number of hours of housework done by women does not go down as their husbands bring home a bigger paycheck. Does that suggest that women are more likely to spend their money on hiring someone to do that work? That it is women who spend money on domestic work, not men – who might not see it as their responsibility? What implications would this have for women’s financial independence in a world in which women tend to earn less than men? Does it impact on women’s savings and long-term financial security?

In other words, this is very interesting research – but it would have been even more interesting to dig a bit deeper.

(Via Our Bodies Our Blog)

Photo by BrittneyBush, shared under a Creative Commons license

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