Sunday, April 13, 2008

I am Calling Shenanigans

Exactly how much housework does a husband create? Well, the definitive results are in:
Having a husband creates an extra seven hours a week of housework for women, according to a University of Michigan study of a nationally representative sample of U.S. families.

For men, the picture is very different: A wife saves men from about an hour of housework a week.
Men bad, obviously.

Or, perhaps not.

There is one primary characteristic distinguishing the soft sciences (where "soft" is shorthand for "not anything at all like"): the ability to simply disregard anything with the temerity to not march in lock step with the soft scientist's "findings" (where the scare quotes denote soft science's inverting of conclusions and data).

Here is where I call shenanigans:
They supplemented the analysis with data from questionnaires asking both men and women to recall how much time they spent on basic housework in an average week, including time spent cooking, cleaning and doing other basic work around the house. Excluded from these "core" housework hours were tasks like gardening, home repairs, or washing the car.
Why are gardening, home repair, or washing the car not "core"?

I have two guesses. Either they are not core because unkempt lawns, repairs ignored, and decrepit cars have no impact on the household ...

.. or, because those tasks have always been done nearly exclusively by men and, despite men performing more of the "core" tasks, continue to be done exclusively by men.


To generalize from personal experience: Over the last couple days I have performed a major periodic maintenance on one of the cars. It involved swapping the winter tires for summer, changing brake, differential and transmission fluid, engine oil & filter, fuel filter, replacing the driver's seatbelt and the gas struts on the trunk lid.

That is about nine hours work -- often dirty and strenuous -- and would have cost about $500 had I paid for it to be done. For one of three cars.

Doesn't count.

A few weeks ago I spent probably twenty hours building a shoe cabinet for the mudroom.

Doesn't count.

Nor does running repairing the dishwasher, clearing the driveway and walkways after a snowstorm, ad nauseum.

The problem these "researchers" (where scare quotes stand in for those who "carefully jury rig studies and definitions so as to create "findings") have is a basic asymmetry. Virtually any task a woman can do, so can a man. All of the "core" tasks fall into this category. Increasingly, men have shared these household duties.

In contrast, those non-core tasks are, through both temperament and constitution, largely inaccessible to women. Imagine, if you will, suggesting to my wife that I'll do the bathrooms while she, say, changes the wheels on the cars.

No points for guessing how that will turn out.

The conclusion is that women are an aggrieved group. If reality's data gets in the way, so much the worse for reality; redefine the data out of existence.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are gardening, home repair, or washing the car not "core"?

Of course they should count, but I can think of one reason why they might be heavily discounted in Alaska.

April 13, 2008 1:19 PM  
Blogger erp said...

What we have here is a failure to communicate. Husbands cause an extra seven hours of housework for their wives, yet men are only spared one hour of housework by having a wife. Obviously each sex is defining housework very differently.

I think you're far too kind calling the "study" shenanigans.

April 13, 2008 3:50 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


I can think of one reason why they might be heavily discounted in Alaska.

And that would be ...?

Obviously each sex is defining housework very differently.

Not necessarily. According to the "study", an average married guy does one hour less housework than he did when single. In contrast, a married woman does seven hours more than when she was single.

I don't see that anything is necessarily astray there; after all, for the average married couple, the husband is the primary wage earner. Which means the "study" should have also included single/married differences in wage earning activity.

That a major university would allow its name to be associated with something so transparently skewed completely flabbers my gast.

I think you're far too kind calling the "study" shenanigans.

Most of the words I wanted to use aren't suitable for a family friendly blog.

April 13, 2008 5:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And that would be ...?

Do a lot of car-washing and gardening in January, Skipper?

But I accept your main point that this purportedly objective and systematic statistical study is badly skewed. In fact, I don't think this is the appropriate methodology for these kind of questions at all. A few years ago I conducted a similar inquiry of my own on an experiencial basis--you know, personal observations, selected interviews, anecdotes, interviews in sports bars and beauty parlors, etc. Astoundingly, I concluded women do about seven hours more houswork a week when they start living with a man and the man does about an hour less.

April 13, 2008 6:09 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


Do a lot of car-washing and gardening in January, Skipper?

I knew there was a joke in there, but my sense of humor impairment would stop me seeing it.

As a matter of fact, since I have a heated garage with floor drains, and h/c running water, that sort of thing is no problem.

Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that the winter analog of gardening, clearing the driveway and walkways, was not considered "core".

Just as the time I spent installing a utility sink with the aforementioned h/c would not be considered "core", either.

Kind of reminds me of OJ: discard everything that doesn't contribute to the pre-ordained conclusion.

April 13, 2008 7:54 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

I neglected to make clear: I regularly wash the cars during the winter.

As well as vacuum and dust the interiors.

However, vacuuming and dusting only counts as a core task if it is done within the house, excluding the garage.

Because, as we all know, clean houses matter, but clean cars do not.

April 13, 2008 9:42 PM  
Blogger lonbud said...

Reading this post and the subsequent comments, I couldn't help thinking of this.

April 13, 2008 11:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm impressed, Skipper, truly. If it weren't for you, the U of Michigan might have concluded women do eight hours extra a week and men save two.

Laugh, old buddy.

April 15, 2008 6:07 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Seems like a REAL scientific study would have had two scales -- one for people in houses, one for condos.

April 15, 2008 9:44 AM  

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