Despite the dramatic changes in gender norms in the last few decades, there is one domain where men have steadfastly refused to make tremendous gains: Chores. Wives who are primary breadwinner in the house? Hardly unusual. Husbands who are passionate closet-organizers? Rarer specimens.
This might not be a problem requiring a national solution, but Stephen Marche writing in the New York Times, has one anyway. "The only possible solution to the housework discrepancy is for everyone to do a lot less of it," he writes.
Hm, maybe. But also, how convenient. Wives want cleaner homes; husbands don't. And the "only possible" compromise solution is that the guys get exactly what they want?
This is the third article I've read on the subject of men and housework, after Jon Chait (asking women to embrace the dust) and Jessica Grose (asking men to embrace the duster). Without trying to sound like a cop out, I'll just say that I have no idea how all 120 million married couples should divide their responsibilities. But here are three facts about housework and married couples that should probably drive the discussion:
- There's less and less housework to do: The amount of housework has declined by 23 percent in the last half century, according to the American Time Use Survey, which is the gold standard for measuring how we spend our days. Some of this decline might be dirtier houses. Much of it is new technologies, like better washer dryers and vacuums, that save time.
- Men do more of it than they used to: They've more than doubled their share of housework since the 1960s.
- But women still do most of it: 18 hours a week for mothers vs. 10 hours a week for fathers in the 2011 ATUS.