MBA Econ Class Sets Gender Record Straight

May 16, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — An economics class in the Seidman School of Business at Grand Valley State University shows that men and women probably shouldn’t get into arguments about who works more.

The truth seems to be that both work a great deal and that men have fractionally more hours per week for leisure.

A gender and economics class taught by Sonia Dalmia, professor of economics at Seidman looked into the issue of gender, work and time use by conducting a survey of 700 households in the region.

The class conducted the survey by mail and its results are based on 334 responses — an extremely high 48 percent rate for a mail survey.

According to Dalmia, the study's aim was to determine whether women are working outside the home as well as shouldering the major responsibility of household labor.

She said the project also was looking at how the shifts in women's labor force participation may be associated with changes in household division of labor.

The results of the study show women still juggling work in and out of the home, while men continue to spend more time in the workplace.

Some studies elsewhere have indicated that many women still work a "second shift." That is, they not only work outside the home, but also shoulder the major responsibility for work done within the home.

But the Dalmia class study says that's not exactly true.

It indicates women still do the majority of household labor, but that men make up for that by working more hours in the marketplace.

Adding the total time spent working per week, it turns out that men work more than women overall. Men work a little more than 58 hours a week, while women work a little more than 57 hours.

Just one thing: The numbers above do not include child care, which, after the children enter school, can be pretty difficult to quantify (and which could be the source of arguments, and maybe another survey some day.)

The survey did show, however, that men with children are more likely to spend extra time in the workplace than at home doing the laundry or other household tasks.

But the main thing, Dalmia said, is that the information the class gathered via the survey "not only adds to our knowledge of the relationship between gender, market work, and housework. It also helps the students to evaluate the correlation between classroom learning and its real life application and spillovers. This is particularly important as almost all of them are going to form households sometime in the near future."

She said the project also helped students encounter the phenomena of gender issues from the viewpoint of economics.

“They are learning how to apply the theoretical and empirical tools of economics in understanding the circumstances of men and women in their community,” Dalmia said.

Some other interesting results include:

  • Women who are married spend more time in household labor than women who are living with a significant other. On the other hand, cohabitating men work less than married men, but they do more around the house.

  • Men spend a little more than 17 hours a week pursuing leisure activities, while women spend a little less than 17 hours a week on leisure.

  • The average age of the respondents was 42.26 for men and 39.88 for women. Of the respondents, 78 percent are married, 10 percent cohabitate, 7 percent are divorced or separated and 6 percent are single.

  • In the sample group, 89 percent of the men and 58 percent of the women are employed full time.

  • Though both household labor time and paid labor time affect leisure, there are no gender differences on their impact on leisure time.

  • Bill paying is the least gender-influenced of all household tasks.

  • The gender division of labor that has women responsible for indoor tasks and men for outdoor tasks still exists

The study did not indicate whether the garage is considered indoor or outdoor work.

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