The second shift still sucks

A new study shows that women are still doing most of the domestic labor. Stop the presses.

Published August 1, 2006 12:00PM (EDT)

Somehow we missed the new study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that was released last Thursday, revealing that -- shocker! -- American women are still doing the bulk of housework and domestic care.

Researchers on the American Time Use Survey talked to 1,300 Americans last year. They found that "married persons spent more time doing household activities than unmarried persons -- 2.1 versus 1.4 hours per day -- and women, regardless of marital status, spent more time doing these activities than men." More specifically, women reported spending one hour a day on housework, and three-quarters of an hour on food preparation, while men clocked 15 minutes spent on each task. More than half of the women surveyed said they had done housework in the past 24 hours, while only one in five men had; 66 percent of women had prepared meals versus 37 percent of men. Additionally, women with children spent twice as much time caring for them as men with children. Men spent more time at work, more time doing yardwork and more time watching television.

In a story about the report in the Chicago Sun-Times, the director of the survey project, John Robinson, observed, "We're a long way from the egalitarian society."

He then tried to brighten things by pointing out that in 1965, women did 85 percent of the household work. So good news. Now we're down to about two-thirds. He also joked that he thinks the distribution of labor will even out around the year 2043, "when the first male mother is created."


Joanne Brundage, executive director of Mothers and More, told the Sun-Times that she hears lots of complaints about the inequitable distribution of domestic labor from members of her group. "Their complaints, quite frankly, are that men aren't stepping up," she said, adding, "If a guy does anything, he's a saint; if the mother doesn't do something, it's like, what's wrong with her?"

Wait a minute. All this sounds so familiar. Didn't someone just write a book about this? But didn't someone also write a book about it in 1963?

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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