Abstract

Time-diary data from representative samples of American adults show that the number of overall hours of domestic labor (excluding child care and shopping) has continued to decline steadily and predictably since 1965. This finding is mainly due to dramatic declines among women (both in and out of the paid labor market), who have cut their housework hours almost in half since the 1960s: about half of women's 12-hour-per-week decline can be accounted for by compositional shifts—such as increased labor force participation, later marriage, and fewer children. In contrast, men's housework time has almost doubled during this period (to the point where men were responsible for a third of housework in the 1990s), and only about 15% of their five-hour-per-week increase can be attributed to compositional factors. Parallel results on gender differences in housework were obtained from the National Survey of Families and Households estimate data, even though these produce figures 50% higher than diary data. Regression results examining factors related to wives' and husbands' housework hours show more support for the time-availability and relative-resource models of household production than for the gender perspective, although there is some support for the latter perspective as well.

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We gratefully acknowledge support of this research from the National Science Foundation (Grant no. SBR-9602058) and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's Working Families Program.