Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Divide the number of hours worked by the number of people...

As I pulled out of my apartment complex this morning, I heard the morning DJ read the statistics from a recent government study that had compiled the national average of hours worked each day by men and women, combining both housework and career hours. I'll put a link to Slate's article about it here.

The study listed the average hours thusly: the average American man works 5.2 hours a day at his business and 2.7 hours a day on housework or chores, for a total of 7.9 hours a day. The average American woman works 3.4 hours a day at her business and 4.5 hours a day on housework or chores for a total of 7.9 hours a day. The deejay laughed triumphantly and announced that this study proved once and for all that all the whining women who complain about how much work they do simply don't have a leg to stand on.

Now, deejays spend a good deal of their time trying to stir up reaction, but I really don't think the damn fool knew quite what he was getting into it.

When I pulled into the parking lot at work, the deejay was still fielding calls from women explaining how hard they worked, how useless their husbands were, and expounding in quite a bit of detail what a slug the deejay was and how utterly unlikely it was that he would ever get married. Quixotically, the deejay was still trying to explain to each caller the concept of a national average, which would be rebutted with phrases like "I don't know anyone like that" or "what about all the single mothers?" These calls would occasionally be broken up by a call from an enthusiastic twenty-something male announcing that the deejay had just become his personal hero. It was, in short, a red-letter day for the sort of people who call in to these shows.

What was most interesting to me was the breakdown by country. In Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands, men actually work a little more than women, whereas in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, and the United Kingdom, women work slightly more. The shocker of the day was that in Italy and, unbelievably France, women work substantially more than the men, who work a considerably lower number of hours per diem than the men in any other wealthy country. Also knock-you-down surprising is the fact that most of the extra leisure time that men have there is spent watching television. I don't know how Napoleon failed to conquer the world with these people. A real Spartan society they've got going on over there.

The most intriguing bit from the story is that the people polled who would know the most about this subject all felt that women worked more than men: 54 percent of economists, 62 percent of economics students, 70 percent of sociologists. Which either means a) this survey is way off (and since the data was gathered by having people fill out daily diaries, not necessarily the most accurate of systems, I don't think that's out of reach. For example, in my diary I would note that I spent, say, 20 minutes cleaning the toilet, when what I actually did was dump some bleach in the toilet and flush), or b) they're right, and we need to rethink how we view the average day of male and female Americans.

Or, c) we could just ignore the whole study, this whole post, and nobody would give anyone else nasty calls about the subject matter. Let's do that.

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At April 18, 2007 9:45 PM, Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

I read about the study as well. I find it hard to believe it's accurate. It's an article of faith that women put in more hours than men, and I think it will take more than one study to start moving public opinion on this.

Listening to the callers must've been a hoot, though.

At April 20, 2007 9:43 AM, Blogger bs king said...

I always thought about work hour distribution by gender as a lot like IQ distribution by gender. My initial thought is that men work more at the top and bottom of the spectrum (i.e. you will find more male working 90 hour weeks as CEO's and such and more unemployed/non contributing household males) and that women work more towards the middle of the spectrum. That would account for women feeling like they work more than men...they base that simply on knowing more lazy men than lazy women. The other thing that could account for that study is the assessment of down time. If you asked me how much time I spent at work working today, I would say 8 hours, despite the fact that I sat and twiddled my thumbs for quite a bit of that (hey, it's the night shift). However, ask me how much of my time at home I spend working, and I'll factor that down time out. So, a hypothetical working man and his housewife counterpart would appear to be doing unequal work during a day, since we all count any moment we're required to be at work as work, no matter what we're doing.


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