Chart of the Day: Women Worked as Much as Men in 2010


Who works more: men or women? This question is highly controversial. On average, men outpace women in the number of hours "on the job," mostly due to more women holding part-time jobs. But that fails entirely to consider all of the sorts of more broadly-defined work that occur outside the office. If you use a more complete definition of work -- including activities like household chores and taking care of children -- men and women worked precisely hard as one another in 2010.

That's a conclusion one can draw from the latest American Time Use Survey for 2010, compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although it contains a slew of fascinating statistics, perhaps no set of data is more interesting than the breakdown of the 24-hour day into the time Americans spent doing various activities. Using the statistics, you can determine how many hours Americans worked, using a broader definition of the word, by adding up working and work-related activities (job-related), caring for and helping household and nonhousehold members, volunteering, and household activities. Men and women each spent exactly 6.16 hours per day working in this broad sense.

Here's how that breakdown looks for the sexes:

atu men v women 2010.png

Let's start with the obvious question: how did Americans only spend 6.16 hours per day, on average, working as broadly defined? The population surveyed was Americans 15 and over, which includes people who don't have a job, like those retired. So this broad population spent 6.16 working, on average.

Looking at the chart, it's pretty clear where the difference lies: men spent more time "on the job", while women worked more hours engaged in caretaking and household activities.

Interestingly, in 2009, even with this broad definition, men worked more hours than women. That year men worked 6.30 hours, while women worked 6.16 hours. Most of the reason for the decline in the working hours for men came from less time spent "on the job" last year. They made up some of that time performing household activities, but spent a little less time caring for household members. This shift could be due in part to the labor market recovery favoring  women over men combined with more elderly men retiring than women.

Another interesting result: men spent significantly more time enjoying "leisure and sports" than women, according to BLS. The tally was 5.57 hours per day for men and 4.82 hours for women. Since they spent the same amount of time working, you can conclude that the difference here resulted in women engaging in other activities that would be considered neither leisure nor work. Some of these categories include shopping, personal care, religious activities, and telephone calls/mail/e-mail.

A few methodology notes: I did not consider shopping to be working, since it can sometimes be leisure and sometimes be a chore. But if I did include it, then women would have had an edge, since they spent an average of 0.86 hours per day shopping to men's 0.62 hours. I also didn't include "other activities" as complied by BLS. These appear to mostly include travel-related activities. But again, women outpaced men in this category, spending an average of 0.36 hours compared to 0.33 hours for men.

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Daniel Indiviglio was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 through 2011. He is now the Washington, D.C.-based columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He is also a 2011 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow through the Phillips Foundation. More

Indiviglio has also written for Forbes. Prior to becoming a journalist, he spent several years working as an investment banker and a consultant.
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