Friday, July 01, 2011

The Truth about Housework

Do people lie about how much time they spend doing housework? Apparently, yes. When researchers ask how many hours per week people spend doing housework, men and women report devoting many more hours to cooking, cleaning, and other chores than time use diaries measure.

Men report doing 23 hours of housework a week. Time use diaries show they actually perform only 10 hours of housework a week. Women say they spend 32 hours a week doing housework, while time use diaries show it is only 17 hours.

The mismatch between recalled time and actual time also occurs when estimating hours of paid work, although the gap is smaller. Employed men estimate that they worked 43 hours last week, while time use diaries show they worked 41 hours. Employed women estimate they worked 36 hours, when in fact they worked 32 hours.

What accounts for these differences? According to time use researchers, one factor may be social desirability. "Respondents may believe that low estimates of time spent on paid work or housework estimates could be taken as a sign of being lazy or irresponsible."

Socially desirable activities tend to be overestimated, such as time spent attending religious services or volunteering. Socially undesirable activities tend to be underestimated, such as sleep time and free time. People say they have only 20 hours of free time each week, but time use diaries show that their free time is in fact a much larger 35 hours.

Source: "The overestimated workweek revisited," by John P. Robinson, Steven Martin, Ignace Glorieux, and Joeri Minnen, Monthly Labor Review, June 2011

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