Comes out in the wash
So remember a few weeks ago, when I was foaming here and here over the Vatican's assertion that women owe their liberation to the invention of the washing machine? Today you have to read my friend and colleague Andrew Chung's story about a University of Montreal study which appears to back up that claim.
Here's an excerpt:
By coincidence, a University of Montreal economist has just completed an exhaustive study of U.S. census data and found that home technology, including appliances and bathroom facilities, did, in fact, have a positive effect on women's participation in the labour force.
"Household technology was important," says the economist, Emanuela Cardia, whose study has yet to be published. "It eventually did lead to women being able to work more."
Cardia became interested in the topic after some researchers published a theoretical paper on the same topic in 2005. She figured she'd try to find out what happened in real life. She scoured 1940 and 1950 census figures across the U.S., paying attention to urban versus less urban counties, where home technologies were adopted more gradually.
It was during this time that Americans really dove into the plug-in- appliance life (by 1950, 94 per cent of households had electricity). At the start of that decade, just 44 per cent of homes had electric refrigerators, but by the end, 80 per cent had them.
Stoves shifted to gas or electric, instead of coal or wood. All of this saved time in meal preparation.
The widespread adoption of home baths and showers also indicated more sophisticated plumbing. As these facilities spread from 59 to 72 per cent of homes, the proportion of women with jobs outside the home went from 25 per cent to 29 per cent. Taking into account other possible factors for the rise, Cardia calculated that baths and showers could account for nearly half of that increase in rural counties and up to 41 per cent in urban ones.
For electric refrigerators the effect was more pronounced in rural areas than urban ones. Cardia suggests this is because urban counties with wealthier families already had more technology, such as iceboxes, that previously led to increased female participation, and that affluent women, given more free time, might simply have spent it at leisure.
Oh great, so women got to work outside the home more, and still come back to the cooking, cleaning, washing, whatever. The domestic workload continues to be stacked against women. In fact, men end up creating work for women.
Having a husband creates an extra seven hours of housework each week for women, according to a new study. For men, tying the knot saves an hour of weekly chores.
"It's a well-known pattern," said lead researcher Frank Stafford, an economist at University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. "Men tend to work more outside the home, while women take on more of the household labor."
He points out individual differences among households exist. But in general, marriage means more housework for women and less for men. "And the situation gets worse for women when they have children," Stafford said.
Overall, times are a' changing in the American home. In 1976, women busied themselves with 26 weekly hours of sweeping-and-dusting work, compared with 17 hours in 2005. Men are pitching in more, more than doubling their housework hours from six in 1976 to 13 in 2005.
Now obviously, the statistics about the work imbalance hide realities. If a woman is staying at home looking after children, it stands to reason she would be doing more housework. But every study everywhere shows the burden, no matter who has a job, universally falls on women.
So anyway, I was about to attack the University of Montreal study on several levels -- until I had a look at this comment below Andrew's story.