Last week’s Casual Friday study focused on messes around the home. We identified eight common household messes, and then asked readers how annoying they were, and who cleaned up.
An interesting thing happened: for the first time ever, we had significantly more female respondents than male respondents: Nearly 60 percent of the 490 responses to the study came from women. We’ve had as many as 70 percent male respondents to Casual Fridays studies, and the previous best showing for women was right about 50 percent. My best guess at the gender ratio in our readership is about 60-40 (male-female), which means that women responded to this survey at a dramatically higher rate than men.
Clearly, 18 years after Arlie Hochschild’s book The Second Shift revealed that women then bore a disproportionate share of housework, housework remains an issue that is of great interest to women. But do our results suggest that gender imbalance in housework is still an issue? Because of the bias in our sample, it’s hard to know for certain. Nonetheless, we did find some interesting results. This is an issue that clearly deserves some more systematic study.
To start with, what sorts of messes annoy people the most? This graph shows responses to the question “how annoyed are you by each of the following messes?”
For nearly every sort of mess, our respondents are significantly more annoyed when others in their household make the mess compared to when they make the mess themselves. The only difference that didn’t rise to the level of significance is computer-related messes: disorganized computer files and computer cables. Bathroom, kitchen, and trash-related messes are the most annoying, with paperwork at the back of the pack. Interestingly, paperwork was the most frequently mentioned mess when we asked our readers to name the most common messes around their homes. Perhaps it’s most common because it’s least annoying — if it were more annoying, then maybe it would get cleaned up sooner.
But what about gender differences? Are women more annoyed than men when it comes to messes?
It depends on who made the mess: Both men and women are significantly more annoyed by the messes created by others. There was not a significant difference between men’s and women’s level of annoyance at their own messes. But women rated the messes made by others as significantly more annoying than men did.
Are women more burdened with cleaning messes than men? Take a look at this graph:
When asked whose job it was to clean up messes, significantly more women said it was their job. And while both men and women claim they do more work than is officially agreed upon in their households, again, women say they do more than men.
But there was only a very small (though significant) correlation (r=.11) between number of hours spent on housework and gender. Interestingly, however, men were likely to say that the person living with them spent more time on housework. The correlation between male gender and hours spent by housemate (wife, girlfriend, or other) on housework was r=.32.
The was a significant positive correlation between age and amount of time spent cleaning (r=.22). Married people, and people living with romantic partners, spend more time cleaning than single people (r?.20).
Finally, what about Hochschild’s “Second Shift”? Do women spend more total time working than men when you combine housework and their paying jobs/school work? No — in our results, there was no correlation between female gender and total time spent working outside the home and housework (r=-.088) — indeed, the trend was towards men working more total hours than women. Total working hours did significantly correlate with the number of messes respondents say they really clean (r=.28 — a moderate correlation).
So it seems that, among our respondents at least, some people, not necessarily women, just work a lot harder than others. These people are the ones who do most of the work, both at home and away from home. But it’s also possible that the men who *didn’t* respond to this survey are the ones who drag the overall numbers down. Not only are they too lazy to do housework, they’re too lazy to complete a survey about housework.