A woman washes dishes at a sink.

“We see these top female earners as compensating in doing more housework, not when women out-earn their husbands but when mothers out-earn fathers. So parenthood seems to have that traditionalizing effect.”

Joanna Syrda, author of the study and a professor at the U.K.-based University of Bath School of Management.

Published on

may 3, 2022

  • The study, published in March 2022, analyzed U.S. data from 1999 to 2017 and "examines the impact of having children on the relationship between partners’ housework time and spousal relative income."
  • Findings: Women with children reduced their housework from 18 to 14 hours a week when they went from earning zero to half of the household income. But when women with children surpassed their husband's salary, their housework time increased again to around 16 hours a week. The average father spent between six and eight hours a week doing housework when he was considered the primary breadwinner, but those housework hours declined as wives' income increased. Of note: This specific study examined housework hours of married parents, not cohabiting mothers and fathers.
  • Something to consider: It's not simply just women doing more laundry or cooking. ".. biologically women end up spending disproportionate time with young kids due to birth, breastfeeding and the bond that develops out of those activities” (changing diapers, putting children down for naps, cooking, etc.), said economist Misty L. Heggeness, who has also performed research on the distribution of domestic work and dual-income households.

Why It Matters: This research parallels other data showing that despite the evolution of women's roles in the workforce, their home life hasn't changed as drastically — they still maintain primary, *if not more,* ownership of household tasks. The study also concludes that "... women are increasingly likely to out-earn their husbands and the prevalence of female-headed households has significantly increased."

The study - Gendered Housework: Spousal Relative Income, Parenthood and Traditional Gender Identity Norms

When moms out-earn their husbands, they gain more housework, study says (Washington Post)

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