Ohio Working Family Survey Shows Women Still Do Most Housework

June 09, 1998

Cincinnati -- Ohio husbands continue to avoid responsibility for routine housework, while their wives, many of them holding full-time jobs, do the lion's share of household chores, a statewide survey conducted by the University of Cincinnati finds.

This resulting "second shift" for women can place a strain on marriages, shows the Survey of Ohio's Working Families conducted by UC's Kunz Center for the Study of Work and Family.

In March 1998, working parents in Ohio were randomly selected to respond to the Kunz Center's survey. Married respondents were shown a list of 11 household tasks and asked how the chores were divided between them and their spouses.

Of the five routine tasks traditionally done by women (cooking meals, doing the dishes, laundry, grocery shopping and housecleaning), husbands estimated that on average they did these jobs 27 percent of time. Wives estimated their husbands' contribution to these tasks to be 18 percent. On child care, husbands said they assumed 35 percent of the responsibility for this task, but wives estimated their husbands' contribution to child care at 27 percent.

While the vast majority of spouses (94 percent) report that they are somewhat or very satisfied with their spouses, husbands' participation in routine household chores produces different levels of satisfaction within marriages. Men who do more housework report significantly lower levels of satisfaction with their wives, while women whose husbands do more housework are more satisfied with their mates.

"This places couples in a difficult situation. If a woman has a husband who helps out with housework, she will be happier with him, but he will be less happy with her," said David Maume, UC sociologist, Kunz Center director and author of the Ohio study.

"Men may support their wives working, but men also expect their wives to take care of the home and are unhappy when asked to do more housework. Thus, many women work full time during the day, and then work a 'second shift' of household chores at night," said Maume.

Also, the survey finds that people who exercise power in the workplace also exercise power in the division of housework. Men who perform managerial duties do significantly less housework, while female managers get their husbands to participate more in household maintenance. Educational levels of husbands or wives and family income were unrelated to men's share of housework.

Men do handle such tasks as trash disposal, yard work, home and auto repair, and handling finances an average of 70 percent of the time. But the difference between men's and women's jobs in the home is that men's tasks can be delayed, while women's tasks are more constant and demanding.

The Ohio findings show men's contribution to household chores has changed little from earlier decades, when husbands' share of housework was estimated at 20-25 percent, Maume said.

More than 500 Ohio residents responded to a survey the Kunz center mailed to randomly selected parents. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percent.

The purpose of the Survey of Ohio's Working Families is to examine the ways families deal with the problems of balancing work and family life, particularly in light of the dramatic changes in women's work and family roles in the last half century. The Kunz Center for the Study of Work and Family is headquartered in UC's Department of Sociology. More information about the Kunz Center and the survey can be obtained from the Kunz Center's web page at http://ucaswww.mcm.uc.edu/sociology/kunzctr/.

University of Cincinnati

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