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Women are earning more money. But they're still picking up a heavier load at home

UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1950s: Couple in kitchen. Women in opposite-sex marriages may be contributing more to their families' income, but they're also still shouldering more of the workload at home, according to a new report.
George Marks
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UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1950s: Couple in kitchen. Women in opposite-sex marriages may be contributing more to their families' income, but they're also still shouldering more of the workload at home, according to a new report.

A new report confirms what many already know to be true: Women are bringing home the bacon and frying it up too.

Even as their contributions to family incomes have grown in recent years, women in opposite-sex marriages are still doing more housework and caregiving than men, a report from the Pew Research Center has found.

Moreover, in 2023, a majority of people believe society still values men's contributions at work more than their contributions at home, according to the report, which was based on three different national surveys.

"I think public attitudes are kind of lagging behind the economic realities that husbands and wives are facing these days," says Kim Parker, director of social trends research at the Pew Research Center.

The share of men who are the primary or sole breadwinners in their families has fallen as women have entered the labor force in large numbers, broken into lucrative occupations and outpaced men in educational attainment, Parker says.

What Pew calls "egalitarian marriages" are on the rise.

Last year, 29% of marriages were "egalitarian," with husbands and wives each contributing roughly half of the couple's combined earnings. That compares to little more than 10% in 1972.

But in "egalitarian marriages," wives are still spending more than double the amount of time on housework than their husbands (4.6 hours per week for women vs. 1.9 hours per week for men), and almost two hours more per week on caregiving, including tending to children.

Husbands, meanwhile, spend roughly three hours more per week than their wives on paid work, and three and a half hours more on leisure activities.

"We've seen a narrowing of the gap over the years with men taking on more hours of housework and childcare as more women have gone into the workplace," says Parker.

"But that imbalance — we still see it today. It's definitely not equal."

An imbalance rooted in attitudes about where women and men belong

That can partly be blamed on attitudes and expectations about the roles of men and women at work and home, Parker says.

More than half (57%) of the 5,152 people Pew surveyed said society puts more stock in what men do at work. Only 7% said they think society values what men do at home more.

Meanwhile, only 20% of respondents said society values what women do at work more, whereas 31% said society values women's contributions at home more. (The remaining share said society values contributions to work and home equally.)

Younger Americans were the most likely to say that the contributions women make at home are valued more by society.

"They're almost more cynical about it," says Parker, noting older Americans are more likely to say society values women's contributions in both spheres equally.

"Maybe they've witnessed the change over their lifetime," she says. "Whereas for young people — they might just see the imbalance now, but they haven't lived through the arc of advancements women have made in the workplace."

The new head of the Institute for Women's Policy Research says that she's heartened by the increasing attention being given to persistent imbalances in American marriages.

"I think that in the past, there was an assumption that there were certain roles that you play, and that's what women do, whether you make more or make less," says Daisy Chin-Lor, who herself earned as much as — and then more than — her husband during her long corporate career, and still carried a heavier workload at home.

"In today's world, I see my son taking much more of an active role in being a parent because he wants to, because he can."

Most Americans believe children do well when mom and dad focus equally on work and home

A broad majority of survey participants — 77% — said children of working parents are better off when both mom and dad focus equally on work and home.

Only 1 in 5 said children are better off when dad is more focused on his job and mom is more focused on home life.

Only 1 in 50 said the reverse — that children are better off when mom is more focused on work and dad is home taking care of things.

Within that data there are sizable differences in opinion depending on a respondent's political leanings. More Democrats than Republicans say it's better for both parents to be focused equally on job and home (85% of Democrats vs. 68% of Republicans), and close to 3 in 10 Republicans feel children are better off when dads are more focused on work and mom more on children and the home.

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Andrea Hsu
Andrea Hsu is NPR's labor and workplace correspondent.