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Women’s and men’s earnings hurt by housework

Mar. 3, 2009, 9:25 AM

[Note: Vanderbilt has a 24/7 broadcast facility with a dedicated fiber optic line for live or taped TV interviews and a radio ISDN line. Click here for a photo of Joni Hersch.]

New research by Vanderbilt professor of law and economics Joni Hersch found that housework not only reduces the salaries of women, but also affects some men’s wages. She also found that women’s salaries are negatively impacted by housework regardless of profession.

For her study, Hersch used time diary data from the American Time Use Survey, which provided detailed information on all activities performed over a 24-hour period. In her analysis, Hersch defined housework to include activities like cleaning, cooking, childcare, pet care, house, lawn and garden maintenance, grocery shopping, and household management.

Hersch found that the total time expended by women on these activities dominated the time spent by men, with the bulk of women’s total housework time spent on cleaning and cooking.

Overall, Hersch found that women spent 53 percent more time on housework than men. Married women completed an average of 97 minutes per day on housework and unmarried women spent an average of 67 minutes a day on housework. Men completed an average of 29 minutes per day, regardless of marital status.

Hersch found that each extra hour spent on daily housework reduced average wages by about 24 cents per hour for women and about 21 cents per hour for men.

Hersch said the most surprising finding was that housework had a negative impact on the salaries of women, regardless of their occupation.

“The effect is not limited to a few occupations, such as those requiring physical effort,” said Hersch. “Rather, the effect spans most of the occupations in which women are employed.”

Hersch found that 85 percent of the women in the sample were employed in occupations that suffered a housework-wage penalty, including highly compensated women in managerial and professional positions.

In contrast, Hersch found that housework lowered men’s wages in only some occupations – management, business, financial operations and sales-related occupations. These careers employed only 24 percent of the men in the sample Hersch used.

Although this study shows that wages are lower for those who do more housework, and women do far more housework than men, Hersch said only a small part of the pay gap between men and women is explained by housework.

The full study can be found in an upcoming issue of the Review of Economics of the Household. You can also find the study at–hersch/publications/index.aspx.

Media Contact: Amy Wolf, (615) 322-NEWS