Men from gender egalitarian countries report they do an “unfair” amount of housework while their counterparts in less egalitarian countries complain less, even when asked to do more. The results surprised researchers, who surveyed 14,000 men and women under the age of 65 who were married or living as married from 30 different countries.
Led by social scientists from Emory University, and published in the journal Social Politics, the study set out to examine how satisfied individuals were with their personal lives relative to others in the same society. But the satisfaction which men derived from their family life depended on the presence (or absence) of broader norms.
Sabino Kornrich, assistant professor of sociology at Emory University, said:
“We presume that living in a more egalitarian society highlights the importance of housework in general, making men more conscious of it and thereby sparking a more negative response the more of it they do. That suggests there’s a norm when men and women live in egalitarian countries that housework is an important, shared responsibility.”
Across all countries, women reported doing 75 percent of the housework and men 31 percent. That doesn’t add up to 100 percent because data came from self reporting, suggesting that a general gap exists between how we evaluate our home life and how it exists in reality.
The study’s findings echo concerns in the business world over the appearance of absolute equality. Because of a persistently unequal division of work at home, men, on average, put in more hours at the office. As a result, it’s harder for women to reach the top rungs of the corporate ladder. But women shouldn’t simply imitate how men behave at the office. Northwestern University’s Alice Eagly explains:
“People like women to acknowledge their femininity, but yet that doesn’t involve moving off into some parts of the feminine repertoire. It doesn’t mean being very compliant. It doesn’t mean crying at work. It doesn’t mean a lot of those things, but it does mean taking some of the positive feminine qualities.”
According to the Emory University study, men and women in less egalitarian countries like Japan seem less aware of how sharing housework affects their relationship satisfaction and they are less likely to feel unhappy whether or not household chores are distributed equally. Being more aware of areas in which equality should rule is likely to make us less satisfied in our relationships.
Interestingly, researchers found that women in more egalitarian societies reported being less satisfied with their relationship in general. The Emory researchers say this is consistent with how women tend to base their relationship satisfaction on other women in the same country (and the “grass is always greener” phenomenon).
Read more at Science Daily.