On average, American men have more leisure time each day than American women—the difference works out to about half an hour.
This inequity, according to a recent analysis of government data by the Pew Research Center, starts early. Among teens ages 15 to 17, the analysis found, boys had roughly an hour more of free time each day than girls.
The time-use patterns of teen boys and girls map closely onto the time-use patterns of adult men and women. Teen boys spend an average of an hour more than teen girls each day absorbed in digital screens; men watch about a half hour more TV than women. Meanwhile, the time that teen girls spend each day cleaning and cooking is more than double the time boys spend on those tasks, and that roughly carries over into adulthood. The teenage years, from this vantage point, begin to look like practice for an adulthood of gender inequities.
Parents can play a major role in generating these inequities. Research on housework suggests that parents introduce kids to tasks differently, depending on their gender. Mothers, for instance, tend to spend more time with their daughters cooking, doing housework, and shopping than they do with their sons. Fathers, meanwhile, are more likely to involve their sons in home-improvement projects and leisure activities such as watching TV. “Kids’ activities are in part driven by their own parents’ gender division of labor,” says Jill Yavorsky, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “These really mirror each other in a lot of ways."