NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 23, 2007

It is a myth that women work longer hours than men, say three economists: Michael Burda of Humboldt University in Berlin, Daniel Hamermesh of the University of Texas and Philippe Weil of the Free University of Brussels.

The economists analyzed data from surveys in 25 countries that asked people how they spend their time.  The people surveyed were asked to keep diaries indicating how they spend each segment of their day.  The 24 hours we all have each day can be divided into four broad activities: "market work" that is, work for pay, typically outside the house; "homework," including housework and child care; "tertiary time," including sleep, eating, and other biological necessities that people can do only for themselves; and the time left over, which is leisure.

Throughout the world, men spend more time on market work, while women spend more time on homework:

  • In the United States and other wealthy countries, men average 5.2 hours of market work a day and 2.7 hours of homework each day, while women average 3.4 hours of market work and 4.5 hours of homework per day.
  • Adding these up, men work an average of 7.9 hours per day, while women work an average of 7.9 hours per day.

When these economists accounted for market work and homework, men and women spent about the same amount of time each day working.  (The averages sound low because they include weekends and are based on a sample of adults that included stay-at-home parents as well as working ones.)

Although men in many wealthy countries do not work less than women, they do enjoy about 20 to 30 minutes more leisure per day (over an hour more in Italy) because they spend less time on sleep and other biological necessities.  Men spend almost all of this additional leisure time watching television.

Source: Joel Waldfoge, "Do women really work more than men?" Dallas Morning News, April 21, 2007.


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