Constraint, Necessity and the "Time Available" for Women's Housework

Sanjiv Gupta, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Liana C. Sayer, University of Maryland

A key assumption of housework research is that there is an average daily pattern of time use which can fairly represent most days. We use pooled time diary data from the 2003-2007 American Time Use Study (ATUS)(Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S.Census Bureau 2008), to analyze separately the time spent on housework on weekdays and weekends by women in heterosexual marital and cohabiting relationships. We separate two dimensions of the conventional time availability hypothesis that existing research has folded together: constraint and necessity. We hypothesize that time constraints from employment are more influential on tasks that can be deferred, like cleaning, than tasks like cooking and meal cleanup which are more necessary on a daily basis. Our results support the hypothesis and motivate a substantial refinement of the conventional “time availability” model of women’s domestic labor.

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Presented in Session 30: New Research on Gender and Housework