Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

How Long Is the Second (Plus First) Shift? Gender Differences in Paid, Unpaid, and Total Work Time in Australia and the United States

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

How Long Is the Second (Plus First) Shift? Gender Differences in Paid, Unpaid, and Total Work Time in Australia and the United States

Article excerpt


"Feminism: The Movement That Brought Women More Work." This statement is at the heart of criticism leveled by some against the 1960s feminist movement (Holmes 1996). The widespread entry of women into paid work, and the lack of equivalent movement among men into unpaid work, suggests that women added a shift of paid work to a shift of unpaid work and now put in two shifts versus one shift worked by men (Hochschild 1989). Have women exchanged me "problem with no name," identified by Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique (Friedan 1963) for the problem of no time?

In the book that popularized the term "second shift," Hochschild (1989) sounded the alarm "Adding together the time it takes to do a paid job and to do housework and childcare. I averaged estimates from the major studies on time use done in the 1960s and 1970s and discovered that women worked roughly fifteen hours longer each week than men. Over a year, they worked an extra month of twenty-four-hour days a year...Most women work one shift at the office or factory and a 'second shift' at home" (Hochschild 1989:3-4, emphasis in the original). While Hochschild's book provided rich description of how couples talk about and evaluate their division of labor, it may have misled us on the magnitude of gender differences in total work time. Quantitative analyses of gender differences in work time do not show excesses of women's over men's total work anywhere near 15 hours a week. Studies indicate that women spend more time doing housework and child care than men, but women also spend less time doing paid work than men. Studies using 1980s and 1990s data find women's and men's combined time in paid and unpaid work is roughly equal in the United States, Australia, and industrialized European countries (Bittman and Wajcman 2000; Gershuny 2000; Robinson and Godbey 1999). It is hard to know whether Hochschild was simply in error, or whether she was right for some time period, since she does not state which studies she averaged.

In this paper we use recent time use data to assess the magnitude and direction of gender differences in total (paid plus unpaid) work time. First, we compare two liberal welfare states, the United States and Australia, both with limited work-family state programs but key contextual differences. In contrast to the United States, Australia's historical legacy of higher union membership, state-sanctioned laws favoring male breadwinner families, and high levels of part-time employment among women affect families' ability and need to access market substitutes for household services. Second, we assess how the combination of couples' joint employment and parental status affect the gender gap in total work. If men resist doing housework, women's total hours should be highest when women are employed full-time and have children (Craig 2006). Third, we count time in "secondary" work activities (e.g., work activities done simultaneously with a primary free time or self care activity, the majority of secondary unpaid work) in our measure of work hours. Accurately assessing the gender gap in total work load requires secondary time because women multitask, or combine leisure with household work, more than men (Bittman and Wajcman 2000; Sayer 2006). Craig (2007) finds that women put in a "second shift" when secondary time is considered but women's and men's total work is similar when only primary time is considered. We assess whether the gender gap in total work time is larger when measures include (secondary) housework that is combined with leisure or self care activities (e.g., eating).


Two explanations of gender differences in paid and unpaid work predominate in the literature: Becker's economic perspective (1965; 1991) and theories from the sociology of gender (Coltrane 2000; Risman 1998; Shelton and John 1996). We do not provide an overall test of these theories, but consider their predictions for our questions. …

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