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Women Still Handle Main Household Tasks in U.S.
Politics

Women Still Handle Main Household Tasks in U.S.

Story Highlights

  • Women mainly responsible for laundry (58%), cleaning and cooking (51%)
  • Men take lead on keeping car in order (69%) and doing yardwork (59%)
  • Perceptions about who does certain household tasks differ sharply by gender

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Although women comprise nearly half of the U.S. workforce, they still fulfill a larger share of household responsibilities. Married or partnered heterosexual couples in the U.S. continue to divide household chores along largely traditional lines, with the woman in the relationship shouldering primary responsibility for doing the laundry (58%), cleaning the house (51%) and preparing meals (51%). At the same time, men continue to take the lead in keeping the car in good condition (69%) and doing yardwork (59%).

Bar chart. List of 12 household chores and who is most likely to do them.

In addition to laundry, cleaning and cooking, women are the primary decision-makers when it comes to home decor in 62% of households. Although there is more equity in some of the other tasks, women are also much more likely than their husbands to care for children on a daily basis, shop for groceries and wash dishes.

There is only one task that men and women are equally likely to take the lead on -- paying bills. In 37% of U.S. households, the woman primarily pays the bills, while in 34% of households, the man does.

Planning family activities is the only task that is reported as being shared equally by a majority, 52%. In households that don't share the job, women are more likely to be responsible (37%) than are men (10%).

Half say that decisions about savings or investments are shared equally, but in most other households (31%), it's the man making these decisions.

These latest readings, based on combined data from three polls conducted in mid-2019, mark the third time that Gallup has asked married and cohabitating couples to report who is most likely to perform various tasks in their household. The previous readings were in 1996 and 2007. Analysis of the 2019 data is limited to heterosexual couples (97% of the sample) to facilitate comparison with past data collected before same-sex marriage was legal.

Distribution of Household Tasks Has Become More Equitable Since 1996

Although women remain more likely than men to perform most of the duties at home, this has declined in some cases over the past two decades. Since 1996, women have become less likely to be the primary partner handling grocery shopping (down 14 percentage points), laundry (down 12 points), cooking (down 12 points), dishwashing (down 11 points) and cleaning (down nine points). These shifts are accompanied by some combination of increases in the percentage of men primarily performing the tasks or sharing the work equally with their partners.

Women also have become less likely to be the main spouse to pay bills as more have said this job is now shared equally between partners.

Line graphs. Roles of U.S. men and women in 10 household tasks in 1996, 2007, and 2019.

Over the same period, men have become more likely to take over the decision-making about savings or investments (up five points), and they have steadily remained most likely to keep both the car and yard in good condition.

Husbands and Wives See Things Differently

The above findings are based on the views of all married or cohabitating heterosexual couples. However, perceptions about who does what differ sharply by gender. Specifically, for eight of the 12 tasks -- caring for children, cleaning the house, preparing meals, washing dishes, grocery shopping, paying bills, planning family activities and making decisions about savings or investments -- men and women are each more likely to say that they personally perform an equal or larger share of the work than their partner does.

Perceptions Men and Women Have of Their Household Roles
Who is more likely to do each of the following in your household?
Reported by woman Reported by man
% %
Care for children on daily basis
Woman more likely to do 59 42
Man more likely to do 4 10
Both equally 36 47
Clean the house
Woman more likely to do 59 43
Man more likely to do 7 11
Both equally 31 43
Prepare meals
Woman more likely to do 57 46
Man more likely to do 13 20
Both equally 30 33
Wash dishes
Woman more likely to do 50 34
Man more likely to do 14 23
Both equally 33 40
Grocery shopping
Woman more likely to do 50 40
Man more likely to do 14 22
Both equally 36 38
Pay bills
Woman more likely to do 45 30
Man more likely to do 25 42
Both equally 30 27
Planning family activities
Woman more likely to do 41 33
Man more likely to do 6 13
Both equally 51 52
Make decisions about savings or investments
Woman more likely to do 26 10
Man more likely to do 20 42
Both equally 53 48
GALLUP, 2019

Parents' Household Tasks Tied to Employment and Earnings

Although mothers are more likely than fathers to say they perform most of the housekeeping chores, the division of labor among parents with at least one child under the age of 18 at home varies largely on each parent's employment situation and earnings.

For example, among parents in single- and dual-income households:

  • In households where both parents work, men shoulder slightly more of the burden of chores than do men in single-income households.
  • Although women in both types of households are still more likely to be responsible for laundry, meal preparation, dishwashing and cleaning, men in dual-income homes pitch in slightly more on these chores than do men in single-income homes.
  • When it comes to caring for children, a plurality of adults in dual-income homes report sharing the responsibilities of childcare. This compares to a majority of mothers in single-income homes who care for children.

Roles of Parents in Single- and Dual-Income Households
Who is more likely to do each of the following in your household?
Single-income household Dual-income household
% %
Do the laundry
Woman more likely to do 66 57
Man more likely to do 8 12
Both equally 26 30
Prepare meals
Woman more likely to do 61 47
Man more likely to do 10 18
Both equally 28 34
Care for children on daily basis
Woman more likely to do 61 44
Man more likely to do 7 7
Both equally 31 47
Clean the house
Woman more likely to do 59 52
Man more likely to do 7 9
Both equally 34 37
Wash dishes
Woman more likely to do 49 40
Man more likely to do 15 21
Both equally 33 35
GALLUP, 2019

And when looking at parents' individual earnings in dual-income households:

  • In households where the father earns more than his wife, the wife is more likely to take the lead on the core housekeeping tasks of laundry, cooking, cleaning, dishwashing, grocery shopping, decorating and childcare. When the mother's income is higher than her husband's, he takes on a greater role in all of these tasks.
  • When both parents earn roughly the same income, men are more likely to help with taking care of children, washing dishes and cleaning.
  • In households where one parent earns more than the other, that person is more likely to be responsible for paying the bills, but long-term financial decisions about savings or investments are most likely to be shared regardless of who the chief earner is.

Roles of Parents in U.S. Households, by Earnings
Who is more likely to do each of the following in your household?
Man earns more Woman earns more Both earn the same
% % %
Do the laundry
Woman likely to do 62 39 58
Man more likely to do 8 25 11
Both equally 28 35 31
Clean the house
Woman more likely to do 56 45 46
Man more likely to do 7 12 12
Both equally 35 39 40
Grocery shopping
Woman more likely to do 51 53 44
Man more likely to do 12 16 14
Both equally 37 32 40
Prepare meals
Woman more likely to do 49 35 50
Man more likely to do 15 29 18
Both equally 34 36 32
Care for children on daily basis
Woman more likely to do 48 36 41
Man more likely to do 5 10 9
Both equally 44 54 50
Wash dishes
Woman more likely to do 47 24 38
Man more likely to do 16 33 24
Both equally 33 40 36
Pay bills
Woman more likely to do 27 47 29
Man more likely to do 41 18 27
Both equally 31 35 44
Make decisions about savings or investments
Woman more likely to do 11 28 21
Man more likely to do 37 23 32
Both equally 52 49 46
GALLUP, 2019

Direct Link Between College Degree and Household Roles

Women with a college degree are slightly less likely than women without one to be solely responsible for several domestic tasks, including laundry, cleaning, washing dishes and caring for children. This may be because women with a college degree are much more likely than those without one to be working full time and thereby sharing the household responsibilities more.

Men with a college degree are more likely than those without one to be solely responsible for the family's finances -- both paying bills and making decisions about savings or investments.

Roles of Men and Women in U.S. Households, by Education
Who is more likely to do each of the following in your household?
Woman, college degree Woman, no college degree Man, college degree Man, no college degree
% % % %
Do the laundry
Woman more likely to do 57 66 49 57
Man more likely to do 13 8 18 14
Both equally 28 25 32 29
Clean the house
Woman more likely to do 55 61 44 43
Man more likely to do 9 5 13 10
Both equally 33 30 39 45
Care for children on daily basis
Woman more likely to do 55 63 42 42
Man more likely to do 5 3 13 8
Both equally 40 33 45 48
Pay bills
Woman more likely to do 46 44 31 30
Man more likely to do 24 25 47 39
Both equally 29 31 22 31
Wash dishes
Woman more likely to do 43 55 30 37
Man more likely to do 23 9 31 19
Both equally 32 34 37 42
Make decisions about savings or investments
Woman more likely to do 29 25 9 10
Man more likely to do 24 18 49 38
Both equally 48 56 41 51
GALLUP, 2019

Younger Couples Maintaining Traditional Gender Roles

As was the case in 2007, married couples of different ages are strikingly similar in their reports about the division of jobs in their homes.

The only task for which there is a significant difference by age is paying household bills. A 39% plurality of those aged 18 to 34 say both spouses share this responsibility equally, while those aged 35 to 54 are divided and a 44% plurality of those aged 55 and older report that the wife is responsible for the bills.

Perceptions of Household Roles, by Age Group
Who is more likely to pay bills in your household?
18-34 35-54 55+
% % %
Woman more likely to do 25 35 44
Man more likely to do 36 36 31
Both equally 39 29 24
GALLUP, 2019

Bottom Line

Despite some changes over the past two decades, the division of labor in U.S. households remains largely tilted toward traditional stereotypes: Women are more likely than their husbands to take care of the house and children, and men remain the primary caretakers of the car and the yard.

As working women and mothers continue to struggle for equal treatment at work, they are more likely than men to fulfill many core housekeeping tasks at home. Yet, there are some signs that women's roles, particularly those whose salaries match or exceed their husband's, are more equitable.

A recent Gallup poll found that a record-high percentage of women prefer to be in the workforce than at home, which could portend greater shifts in household responsibilities.


Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/283979/women-handle-main-household-tasks.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
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