Inequality persists in multitasking at home

Inequality persists in multitasking at home

NEW YORK - Reuters
Inequality persists in multitasking at home

Women do about 10 hours more multitasking in the home each week, study says. REUTERS photo

Men may be helping more in the home but working women still do more multitasking in U.S. families than their partners and are finding it stressful, according to a new study.

Whether it is housework, cooking or childcare, women do about 10 hours more multitasking in the home each week -- 48.3 hours compared to 38.9 -- which researchers say constitutes an important source of gender inequality.

“When you look at men and women in similar kinds of work situations they look very similar,” Barbara Schneider, a professor of sociology at Michigan State University and a co-author of the study, said in an interview.

“But when they come home it is very clear that women are shouldering much more of the responsibilities of housework and childcare.”

Schneider and Shira Offer, an assistant professor at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, used data from the 500 Family Study, which looked at how families in eight U.S. urban and suburban communities balance work and family life.

Their research, which is published in the American Sociological Review journal, is based on responses from a subset of 368 mothers and 241 fathers in dual-income families, which they said reflects the most time-pressured segment of the population.

“This (the findings) suggests that working mothers are doing two activities at once more than two-fifths of the time they are awake, while working fathers are multitasking more than a third of their waking hours,” Schneider said.

In addition to doing more, the jobs women perform at the same time in the home are more labor intensive, such as housework and childcare, than what men tackle.

The study showed that 52.7 percent of all multitasking for working mothers involved housework, compared to 42.2 percent for fathers, and 35.5 percent was taken up with childcare, as opposed to 27.9 percent for men.

“Fathers, by contrast, tend to engage in other types of activities when they multitask at home, such as talking to a third person or engaging in self-care. These are less burdensome experiences,” Schneider explained.

The researchers said the study showed multitasking is also more stressful for women. Only women reported negative emotions when they multitasked at home or in public, while men found it a positive experience.

“We should not be under any false assumptions that things have dramatically changed,” said Schneider when asked about the role of women at home and at work.

“I think there are still many issues, both in the workplace and certainly in the home, that suggest there are and continue to be gender inequalities.”