Marriages are becoming more "egalitarian." Just not with housework
In a growing share of opposite-sex marriages, husbands and wives earn about the same income, according to a newly released Pew Research Center analysis of government data.
Why it matters: At first glance this looks like the U.S. is inching closer to gender equality. But these marriages, which Pew calls "egalitarian," are still unbalanced when it comes to unpaid work — with wives spending more time on caregiving and housework.
Zoom out: Decades ago, a Berkeley professor wrote "The Second Shift," a book about the work women perform outside of their paying jobs.
- This care work only intensified during the pandemic era, and though remote work has afforded some Americans the ability to balance work and home life, the gap still lingers.
Details: The Pew analysis finds that husbands spend an average of 3.5 hours more than their spouses per week on leisure activities; and wives spend about 2 more hours on caregiving; and roughly 2.5 hours more on housework. (See the chart below.)
- Even in marriages where the wife is the primary breadwinner, earning 60% or more of the income, husbands spend less time on housework and caregiving.
- It's only in marriages where the wife is the sole breadwinner — 6% of couples overall — that husbands spend more time caring for others than their wives, Pew finds.
There are important demographic differences when it comes to how couples earn their money.
- Black women, women with college degrees or with fewer children are more likely to be in egalitarian marriages.
The bottom line: A lot of the differences here are tied up with cultural expectations for men and women. Separate research has found that same-sex couples divide chores more equally.
- In a separate survey, Pew finds that a majority of Americans say society values men's contributions at work more than their contributions at home.
- For women, the results were more of a mishmash. 49% of Americans said the contributions women make at home and work are valued equally, while about a third said a woman's contributions at home are of more value.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on April 13.