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BGU Study Shows Women and Men Equally Share Housework

BGU Study Shows Women and Men Equally Share Housework

June 16, 2008

Press Releases

New York, NY — March 6, 2008 — A discussion paper released today on changing family roles co-authored by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) Professor Oriel Sullivan and University of California Riverside Professor Scott Coltrane reveals that men have stepped up to the plate in sharing housework and childcare.  In addition, the longer a wife works, the more housework her husband does.


The two researchers who are affiliated with the Council on Contemporary Families, note that over the last 30 years, marital equality is increasing and more couples are sharing family tasks than ever before, especially among full-time, dual-earner couples.


According to Oriel Sullivan, a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at BGU, “Most previous literature on the division of family work began with the naive assumption that the massive gender rearrangements that began in the late 1960s would, unlike any other major social transformation in history, have instantaneous results. Our ongoing studies of couple relationships reveal instead that change has been continuous and significant, not merely in younger couples who begin their relationship with more flexible ideas about gender, but also in older couples where the wife has worked long enough to change her husband’s values and behaviors.  Men and women may not be fully equal yet, but the rules of the game have been profoundly and irreversibly changed.”


Among the key elements of the work-family balancing between men and women cited include:


* In the U.S. men’s absolute and proportionate contributions to household tasks increased substantially over the past three decades, dramatically lessening the burden on women.  Studies show that from the 1960s to the 21st century, men’s contribution to housework doubled, increasing from about 15 to more than 30 percent of the total (Robinson & Godbey 1999; Fisher et al 2006).


* The most dramatic increase in men’s contributions has been to child care.  Between 1965 and 2003, men tripled the amount of time they spent in child care (Bianchi, Robinson and Milkie 2005; Fisher et al 2006).  Fathers in two-parent households now spend more time with co-resident children than at any time since large-scale longitudinally comparable data were collected (Coltrane 2004; Pleck and Masciadrelli 2003).


* These trends are occurring in much of the Western industrial world, suggesting a worldwide movement toward men and women sharing the responsibilities of both work-life and family life.  Data from 20 industrialized countries over the period 1965 to 2003 reveal an overall cross-country increase in men’s proportional contribution to family work (including housework, child care and shopping), from less than one-fifth in 1965 to more than a third by 2003 (Hook 2006).


* There is, overall, a striking convergence of work-family patterns for U.S. men and women. While the total hours of work (including both paid and family work) done by men and women have remained roughly equal since the 1960s there has been a growing convergence in the hours that both women and men spend in the broad categories of paid work, family work and leisure. Women’s paid work time has significantly increased, while that of men has decreased.  Correspondingly, women’s time devoted to housework has decreased, while the time men spend in family work of all kinds has increased.


Sullivan states, “We believe that increases in men’s involvement in family work are part of an ongoing rather than a stalled revolution, and are likely to continue as more women join the labor force.  Men share more family work if their female partners are employed more hours, earn more money, and have spent more years in education. Moreover, all these trends are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.  With greater belief in gender equality and more equal sharing of tasks comes the possibility for more equal and open negotiation about who does what in families.” 

About American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion’s vision: creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University’s expertise locally and around the globe. As Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) looks ahead to turning 50 in 2020, AABGU imagines a future that goes beyond the walls of academia. It is a future where BGU invents a new world and inspires a vision for a stronger Israel and its next generation of leaders. Together with supporters, AABGU will help the University foster excellence in teaching, research and outreach to the communities of the Negev for the next 50 years and beyond. Visit vision.aabgu.org to learn more.

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