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BGU Study Shows Women and Men Equally Share Housework

BGU Study Shows Women and Men Equally Share Housework

June 16, 2008

Press Releases

New York, NY — March 6, 2008 — A discussion paper released today on changing family roles co-authored by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) Professor Oriel Sullivan and University of California Riverside Professor Scott Coltrane reveals that men have stepped up to the plate in sharing housework and childcare.  In addition, the longer a wife works, the more housework her husband does.

The two researchers who are affiliated with the Council on Contemporary Families, note that over the last 30 years, marital equality is increasing and more couples are sharing family tasks than ever before, especially among full-time, dual-earner couples.

According to Oriel Sullivan, a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at BGU, “Most previous literature on the division of family work began with the naive assumption that the massive gender rearrangements that began in the late 1960s would, unlike any other major social transformation in history, have instantaneous results. Our ongoing studies of couple relationships reveal instead that change has been continuous and significant, not merely in younger couples who begin their relationship with more flexible ideas about gender, but also in older couples where the wife has worked long enough to change her husband’s values and behaviors.  Men and women may not be fully equal yet, but the rules of the game have been profoundly and irreversibly changed.”

Among the key elements of the work-family balancing between men and women cited include:

* In the U.S. men’s absolute and proportionate contributions to household tasks increased substantially over the past three decades, dramatically lessening the burden on women.  Studies show that from the 1960s to the 21st century, men’s contribution to housework doubled, increasing from about 15 to more than 30 percent of the total (Robinson & Godbey 1999; Fisher et al 2006).

* The most dramatic increase in men’s contributions has been to child care.  Between 1965 and 2003, men tripled the amount of time they spent in child care (Bianchi, Robinson and Milkie 2005; Fisher et al 2006).  Fathers in two-parent households now spend more time with co-resident children than at any time since large-scale longitudinally comparable data were collected (Coltrane 2004; Pleck and Masciadrelli 2003).

* These trends are occurring in much of the Western industrial world, suggesting a worldwide movement toward men and women sharing the responsibilities of both work-life and family life.  Data from 20 industrialized countries over the period 1965 to 2003 reveal an overall cross-country increase in men’s proportional contribution to family work (including housework, child care and shopping), from less than one-fifth in 1965 to more than a third by 2003 (Hook 2006).

* There is, overall, a striking convergence of work-family patterns for U.S. men and women. While the total hours of work (including both paid and family work) done by men and women have remained roughly equal since the 1960s there has been a growing convergence in the hours that both women and men spend in the broad categories of paid work, family work and leisure. Women’s paid work time has significantly increased, while that of men has decreased.  Correspondingly, women’s time devoted to housework has decreased, while the time men spend in family work of all kinds has increased.

Sullivan states, “We believe that increases in men’s involvement in family work are part of an ongoing rather than a stalled revolution, and are likely to continue as more women join the labor force.  Men share more family work if their female partners are employed more hours, earn more money, and have spent more years in education. Moreover, all these trends are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.  With greater belief in gender equality and more equal sharing of tasks comes the possibility for more equal and open negotiation about who does what in families.” 


By supporting a world-class academic institution that not only nurtures the Negev, but also shares its expertise locally and globally, Americans for Ben-Gurion University engages a community of Americans who are committed to improving the world. David Ben-Gurion envisioned that Israel’s future would be forged in the Negev. The cutting-edge research carried out at Ben-Gurion University drives that vision by sustaining a desert Silicon Valley, with the “Stanford of the Negev” at its center. The Americans for Ben-Gurion University movement supports a 21st century unifying vision for Israel by rallying around BGU’s remarkable work and role as an apolitical beacon of light in the Negev desert.

About Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev embraces the endless potential we have as individuals and as a commonality to adapt and to thrive in changing environments. Inspired by our location in the desert, we aim to discover, to create, and to develop solutions to dynamic challenges, to pose questions that have yet to be asked, and to push beyond the boundaries of the commonly accepted and possible.

We are proud to be a central force for inclusion, diversity and innovation in Israel, and we strive to extend the Negev’s potential and our entrepreneurial spirit throughout the world. For example, the multi-disciplinary School for Sustainability and Climate Change at BGU leverages over 50 years of expertise on living and thriving in the desert into scalable solutions for people everywhere.

BGU at a glance:  

20,000 students | 800 senior faculty | 3 campuses | 6 faculties: humanities & social sciences, health sciences, engineering sciences, natural sciences, business & management, and desert research.


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