August 09, 2018

Gender differences in childhood chores contribute to workplace gender inequality

Gender differences in childhood chores contribute to workplace gender inequality

Motherhood and household roles traditionally assigned to women are often listed as reasons why female labor force participation rates are lower than their male counterparts and why a gender pay gap persists.

As IZA author Anne E. Winkler highlights, women’s labor force participation is affected by “gender expectations about women’s and men’s appropriate roles in the household and the family. For instance, if the prevailing attitude is that the ‘husband should be the breadwinner and the wife should be the homemaker,’ rather than a more egalitarian view, one would expect women to have a lower labor force participation rate in that type of society.”

New research suggests that these trends actually start in childhood, with stark differences between the expectations on girls and boys to perform household chores and the allowance they receive for doing them.

The research, conducted by the University of Maryland, was based on American Time Use Survey diaries kept between 2003 and 2014 by 6,358 students aged 15 to 19, and chores included cleaning, cooking, looking after pets, and home maintenance. The research finds that boys in this age group do 30 minutes of housework per day whereas girls do 45 minutes. Furthermore, boys are paid more allowance for doing jobs around the house, sometimes up to twice as much, with an average pay of $13.80 per week compared to $6.71 for girls.

Differences are also based on parents’ education, with children of parents who have a college education spending less time on household work. The difference however is still most noticeable between girls, with daughters of parents without a college education spending 25% more time doing chores.

Christia Spears Brown, a psychology professor at the University of Kentucky, highlights that “chores are really practice for adult living, so the problem is it [gender differences] just gets generationally perpetuated.”

According to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics at the University of Michigan, however, the gender gap in chores is starting to decrease. If this is the case, it is likely to have a significant positive impact on female labor force participation, as Winkler points out that, “if the allocation of time in the household is very unequal, with women bearing the major responsibility for taking care of home and family, this burden is likely to lower their ability to participate in the paid labor force.”

Read more articles on female labor force participation.