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June 26, 2007


Ken Houghton

If you can manage to do about two hours of housework a day, on top of your normal work schedule and/or child care activities, it strikes me as Severely Counterintuitive that you would be LESS productive, unless the analysis assumes a "lump of labour."


if only in my household the married woman had managed a wage reduction of 2%.

More seriously, there are far too many contending other factors to make this remotely usable informtaion.

Mark Wadsworth

Quite possibly true, quite possibly not.

But even if true, so what? As long as husbands and wives split net incomes equally, then all is well.


How is this news?


So hold on. A stereotypically male activity such as playing squash every day or training for triathlons or being a member of a football team are deemed valuable because they are evidence of "competitiveness" or "team skills" (at least that is the case here in Hedge Fund Alley). The fact that they take up energy and time out of the day is not considered important. Meanwhile, for women, boring but physical labour is the reason they are paid less?

What a load of baloney. Please employ critical faculties before posting...

Matt Munro

Playing squash or training for triathlons serve work functions (entertaining clients, brown nosing the boss or networking) which enhance earnings potential. Housework doesn't.
In any even I think the direction of effect here is wrong. Women do more housework BECAUSE because they do less paid work, conversely men do less housework BECAUSE they do more paid work.
Women get paid less because they work fewer hours in lower paid jobs, it's not rocket science.


If training for a triathlon serves a work function then so does housework. Or do you come into work in crumpled, dirty clothes?

Unfortunately when evaluating individuals' worth, training for a triathlon is given credence as an activity whereas housework is not. It's these valuations that cause part of the problem - not the underlying use of time.

In this whole argument, whatever happened to ceteris paribus? First thing I learned in economics. Men and women on equivalent wages in equivalent jobs will still do different amounts of house and child-related work. Therefore the housework cannot be the CAUSE of the income differentials, or at least not for the reasons given in the original article. Work is not a lump of mainly physical labour, to be distributed between office and home. Most of us reading this blog don't do physical labour. And the substitute for hours doing housework at home is not more work - but more hours slumped in front of the telly.

Matt Munro

No I don't and when I was single I ironed them myself ! The logical extension of that argument (behind every succesfull man there's a good woman) is that single/gay men would never be sucessfull...

"Work is not a lump of mainly physical labour, to be distributed between office and home".
Whether its physical or not is irrelevant. Assuming most people do not multi-task housework with paid work, we still only have a finite number of hours in the day to accomodate both. If relatively fewer of those hours are filled with paid work, then more of them can potentially be filled with housework. Agree that doesn't explain "ceteris paribus" but the second part of the amswer might be psychological rather than economic ? If women have more "non-working" time (which on average they do) perhaps they use it do do housework rather than run a trialthlon because they put relatively more value on having a tidy house and uncrumpled clothes than men do ?
Sociobiology says that women demonstrate attractiveness as potential through advertising their ability to rear children. Woman with tidy house signals better mother, so increased chance of sucesfull reproduction.
Conversely an ability to secure resources to raise children and feather the nest is an attribute which females find attractive in a potential mate, so working long hours in highly paid job signals better father. Consequently women have an innate drive to keep the house tidy and the kids clean to keep hold of their mate, and men are driven to spend hours playing squash to secure promotion and keep the misses happy.

Just to support my argument anecdotally, I could never understand why my ex wife seemed to spend as much time on housework after we had employed a cleaner as before.



I think it's a myth that women put more value on a tidy house than men. Men typically get to freeride on the tidy house and the ironed clothes...(this is not meant to be an attack, btw - just explaining why I think the underlying reasoning is wrong).

And women have an innate drive to keep the house tidy? No. Houses require work. Men traditionally have not done the work because it is undervalued. Women, whose labour is undervalued, have done it. Now that men and women are increasingly equally valued (but not yet totally equally) women are also saying they don't want to do it so they are getting in cleaners, buying ready meals, sending out the ironing etc etc.

And by the way, the physical work distinction is relevant. I can be thinking about my work while doing the housework. Few of us now need to be in a factory doing physical labour to be working. I can be hoovering and thinking about a work issue at the same time. However, as previously mentioned, I am more likely to be slumped in front of the tv which makes me more like the men I work with than like the 1950s housewife the original article presumes me to be.

Matt Munro

Is it undervalued though ? You mentioned "hedge fund alley" and perhaps you remember a couple of high profile city divorces last year where 2 city bankers were taken to the cleaners by their ex wives. I don't imagine either of them spent their days with their hands down the toilet or worrying about getting a perfect white wash, but they were awarded millions just for being "housewives".
This logic applies all the way down the food chain from millionaires to road sweepers, and places a value on the lot of the "housewife" of at least half of whatever the husband happens to earn.
The legal argument is that without the wife the assets of the marriage wouldn't have materialised, ergo any assets created must be 50% owned by the wife, so theoretically housework is as highly valued as hedge fund management ?

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