Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, to pick up after, to arrange appointments for, and to remind to turn on the dishwasher on the evening? “I do!” If marriage vows sounded like this, would women still get married? A recent study suggests that, whether they expected it or not, a lot of married women find themselves doing more than their fair share of housework. In fact, researchers say that having a husband is actually creating additional work for their partners, whether they realize it or not!
Study: Having a Husband Creates an Additional 7 Hours of Housework A Week
A University of Michigan study, led by ISR economist Frank Stafford explored how the dynamic of marriage has changed in the 21st century compared to a few generations earlier in the 1960’s and 70’s.
As you might have already suspected, modern marriages have a more equal division of housework, but it’s still not quite even. American women have overall been doing less housework than they did in the mid-late 20th century (17 hours a week compared to 26 hours a week). Similarly, men have been doing more housework (13 hours a week compared to 6 hours).
But Stafford and his team wanted to take a closer look at more recent history. When he compared the time spent doing chores in 1996 to 2005, he found that:
- In 1976, married women spent an average of 9 more hours of household work a week compared to single women, while married men spent an average of 3 fewer hours compared to single men!
- In 2005, married women spent an average of 4 more hours of household work a week compared to single women, but married men 5 more hours of household work a week compared to single men.
(On the one hand, the average married woman is still spending significantly more actual time doing chores than their male counterpart, but this closer look gives us a hint that marriage dynamics are slowly but surely, changing for the better).
But here’s the kicker…
“This graph shows that in 2005, single women with no children did a little more than 10 hours of housework a week, and married women with no children did a little more than 17 hours a week. The only difference? The presence of a husband, which costs women seven hours of housework a week.
For men, the situation is reversed. Single men with no children did about eight hours of housework a week, while married men with no children did a bit more than seven hours of housework a week. So a wife saves them about an hour of work a week.” Credit: University of Michigan Institute for Social Research
ISR economist Frank Stafford, who directs the study, explains:
“It’s a well-known pattern. There’s still a significant reallocation of labor that occurs at marriage—men tend to work more outside the home, while women take on more of the household labor. Certainly there are all kinds of individual differences here, but in general, this is what happens after marriage. And the situation gets worse for women when they have children.”
Before you start giving your own husband a hard time, remember that these results are an average, and every relationship has its own unique dynamic. Not to mention, “it is not clear whether men are overreporting their own hours (“I help out around the house all the time!”), or whether their wives are underreporting (“He never lifts a finger to help me!”), or both,” cautions Stafford.
Let’s all hope that soon modern marriages will be truly equal. Stafford conducted a follow-up study presented in 2018 that also explored trends among children- in 2002, boys did about 21.4 minutes of housework a day compared to 40.5 minutes for girls. But, by 2014, those numbers started to equalize with boys doing about 26.8 minutes compared to 30 minutes for girls. So the next generation is on the right track.
In the meantime, watch out for those TV advertisements for cleaning products… you just might notice those marketers targeting men too!
Keep Reading: Running A Household Without A Husband In It Is Easier
- ‘Exactly how much housework does a husband create?’ University of Michigan News. Published April 3, 2008
- ‘Chore Wars: Men, Women and Housework’ National Science Foundation
- ‘Data Quality of Housework Hours in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics:
- Who Really Does the Dishes?’ PSID Online Published. September, 2005.