In one of my many failed schemes to introduce a more equitable division of labor into my home, I stuck lined Post-it Notes on the refrigerator. “Please write down the chores you do. At the end of the week, we’ll figure out if anything needs to change.” I recorded my contributions zealously: cooking, dishes, laundry, sweeping, swiping (bathrooms). Although they did a few household tasks—a load of dishes here, a trash run there—my husband and daughters declined to participate. Perhaps they forgot. But I suspect that they didn’t want to recognize who does and who doesn’t benefit from our existing arrangement.
The results of the 2018 American Time Use Survey (ATUS), released last week, succeed where I didn’t in demonstrating the continuing imbalance in American family life—writ large. Over the past calendar year, U.S. Census Bureau staff, acting on behalf of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), called about 9,600 people 15 years old or older and grilled them about all their activities in the 24-hour period starting at 4 a.m. the previous morning, from having sex and putting on hand cream to removing lint from the dryer and winterizing a boat.
No surprise, the ATUS found a gap between how men and women spend their time. Both sexes care for their home, children, and elders, but women dedicate 3.1 hours each day, 74 minutes more than men, to these unpaid labors of love. And despite the perception that 21st-century men are more egalitarian, the domestic-duty divide has closed by only 11 minutes since 2003, the first year of the survey. Also no surprise: Both sexes work for pay, but men clock an average of 4.16 hours, 68 minutes more than women, on the job each day, translating into higher income and more benefits. (Averages are drawn from across the entire population, and include those who are not employed.)