NEW YORK — It has long been true that women are paid less than men at work and do more of the labor at home. It turns out those patterns start as early as childhood.
Although there are a few signs that the gap is shrinking, a variety of data shows that girls still spend more time on household chores than boys do. They are also paid less than boys for doing chores and have smaller allowances.
One recent analysis, for example, found that boys ages 15-19 do about half an hour of housework a day, and girls about 45 minutes; and that while girls spend a little less time on chores than they did a decade ago, the time that boys spend has not significantly changed.
Shouldering more responsibilities at home is a big reason women are paid less than men and fall behind men in their careers, researchers say. Achieving equality, they argue, will require not just preparing girls for paid work but also teaching boys to do unpaid work.
“Being involved with the household from a young age is how most children learn these skills,” said Sandra Hofferth, a sociologist at the University of Maryland who was a co-author of the recent analysis and has spent her career studying how children spend their time. “Progressives believed that they were training their boys for greater involvement in the home. However, we do not see any evidence that the gap in household work has declined.”
Her research was based on American Time Use Survey diaries from 2003-2014 by 6,358 high school students 15-19. Housework included cooking, cleaning, pet care, yard care, and home and car maintenance.
It found differences based on parents’ education. Children of college-educated parents spend less time on chores overall, but the difference is almost all among girls. Daughters of college graduates spend 25 percent less time on chores than daughters of parents with no more than a high school education. But they still spend 11 minutes more a day than sons. Educated parents seem to have changed their expectations for their daughters but not for their sons, Hofferth said.
Boys are also paid more allowance than girls for doing chores, according to a recent analysis of 10,000 families that use BusyKid, a chore app. Boys using the app earned twice what girls did for doing chores — an average of $13.80 a week, compared with girls’ $6.71.
Boys are also more likely to be paid for personal hygiene, like brushing teeth or taking a shower, according to BusyKid. Girls are more likely to be paid for cleaning.
The gender gap in chores for children is worldwide. A recent study of 12-year-olds in 16 countries across the economic spectrum, not including the United States, found that in each of them, girls spent more time on household chores than boys did.
“Chores are really practice for adult living, so the problem is it just gets generationally perpetuated,” said Christia Spears Brown, a psychology professor at the University of Kentucky who studies children and gender.
But there are signs that the gender gap in chores is beginning to narrow, as it is for adults. In one area in particular — caring for family members, like siblings or older relatives — boys are doing as much as girls. Researchers say this could influence future generations, with boys who are raised caring for family members being prepared to become more engaged fathers.