It has long been true that women are paid less than men at work and do more of the labor at home. It turns out those patterns start as early as childhood.
Although there are a few signs that the gap is shrinking, a variety of data shows that girls still spend more time on household chores than boys do. They are also paid less than boys for doing chores and have smaller allowances.
One recent analysis, for example, found that boys ages 15 to 19 do about half an hour of housework a day, and girls about 45 minutes. Although girls spend a little less time on chores than they did a decade ago, the time that boys spend hasn’t significantly changed.
Shouldering more responsibilities at home is a big reason women are paid less than men and fall behind men in their careers, researchers say. Achieving equality, they argue, will require not just preparing girls for paid work, but also teaching boys to do unpaid work.
“Being involved with the household from a young age is how most children learn these skills,” said Sandra Hofferth, a sociologist at the University of Maryland who was a co-author of the recent analysis and has spent her career studying how children spend their time. “Progressives believed that they were training their boys for greater involvement in the home. However, we do not see any evidence that the gap in household work has declined.”
Her research was based on American Time Use Survey diaries from 2003 to 2014 by 6,358 high school students 15 to 19. Housework included cooking, cleaning, pet care, yard care and home and car maintenance.
It found differences based on parents’ education. Children of college-educated parents spend less time on chores over all, but the difference is almost all among girls. Daughters of college graduates spend 25 percent less time on chores than daughters of parents with no more than a high school education. But they still spend 11 minutes more a day than sons. Educated parents seem to have changed their expectations for their daughters but not for their sons, Ms. Hofferth said.
Boys are also paid more allowance than girls for doing chores, according to a recent analysis of 10,000 families that use BusyKid, a chore app. Boys using the app earned twice what girls did for doing chores — an average of $13.80 a week, compared with girls’ $6.71.
Boys are also more likely to be paid for personal hygiene, like brushing teeth or taking a shower, according to BusyKid. Girls are more likely to be paid for cleaning.
The gender gap in chores for children is worldwide. A recent study of 12-year-olds in 16 countries across the economic spectrum, not including the United States, found that in each of them, girls spent more time on household chores than boys did.
Men’s and women’s chores tend to break down along what happens indoors and outdoors. Women do more of the inside work — like cooking, cleaning and laundry — while men do more of the outside work, like mowing the lawn or taking out the trash. Previous research has found that the same divide happens with children’s chores.
“Chores are really practice for adult living, so the problem is it just gets generationally perpetuated,” said Christia Spears Brown, a psychology professor at the University of Kentucky who studies children and gender.
But there are signs that the gender gap in chores is beginning to narrow, as it is for adults. In one area in particular — caring for family members, like siblings or older relatives — boys are doing as much as girls. Researchers say this could influence future generations, with boys who are raised caring for family members being prepared to become more engaged fathers.
Boys and girls spend about the same amount of time caring for family members each day, Ms. Hofferth’s analysis found. It’s a gap that has closed from a little over a decade ago, when boys spent half as much time as girls on caregiving.
Boys are doing more caregiving worldwide. In the international study, there was also very little gender difference in the amount of time children spent caring for family members — and in one country, Norway, boys spent more time doing it than girls.
In another study of housework, using a smaller set of data, there was evidence that the gender gap in chores was shrinking, too. Boys 13 to 18 spent a little under half an hour on housework, it found, while girls spent a little over half an hour. The change came from boys, who increased their housework time by 29 percent between 2002 and 2014, while girls decreased theirs by 27 percent, according to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics at the University of Michigan, which has tracked a set of families since 1968.
That mirrors the shift with adults. Married men now spend 1.1 hours a day on housework, the Michigan panel found, up from 55 minutes in 1983. Married women’s time spent on chores has decreased, but is still double that of men: 2.2 hours a day, down from 3.8 hours.
The way children are raised shapes the roles they take in adulthood, research shows.
One study found that sons of working mothers spend more time on housework and child care as adults. Another found that parents’ division of labor, particularly fathers doing household tasks, predicted young adults’ attitudes about how to allocate housework.
Economically self-sufficient young women might view men who don’t share the load at home as less attractive partners, Ms. Hofferth said. In the meantime, she said, their houses might just be messier: “Young couples will probably contract out the household work, or live with more chaos and disarray than did their parents.”
Credits: The New York Times.