Studies Disprove “Second Shift” Narrative

Vol. 14 No. 08, September 7, 2010

Studies Disprove “Second Shift” Narrative

By Sally C. Pipes, President and CEO

It’s been a challenging summer for the Women’s Movement. The recent publication of two “time use surveys” in the United States and Europe contradicts the preferred feminist narrative about the lives of men and women.

The American Time Use Survey, released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics on June 22, found that men spend an hour more per day on the job than their female counterparts. Even when part-time workers, the majority of whom are women, are taken out of the mix, the discrepancy between the full-time male and female work days still approaches 60 minutes. This “time gap” between the sexes is greater than in any other major activity, including childcare and household tasks.

This survey echoes the findings of dozens of studies and books on the subject of male and female choices in the workplace. Evidence overwhelmingly points to the reality that men will willingly choose jobs with longer hours, longer commutes, and less flexibility in exchange for higher pay. Women are far less likely to make that tradeoff. If men dedicate almost an hour more of their time to their jobs per day, doesn’t the old feminist yarn about the “wage gap” and widespread discrimination start to sound ridiculous?

Well, perhaps women are not able to spend as much time on the job because they shoulder a disproportionate percentage of the household duties, the reply goes. Indeed, the famous “second shift” narrative comes into play here. Our patriarchal society supposedly forces women to work one paid shift at the office and a second full-time shift at home performing the majority of household and childcare duties. Women are not compensated for this “second shift,” yet all that extra work hampers their earning potential at the office. Or does it?

On August 5, the London School of Economics added insult to injury with its own time use survey. Dr. Catherine Hakim, who wrote the study, found that men and women are equal partners when it comes to home and office work. Neither spouse gets stuck with a “second shift.” On average, men will spend a little more time at the office, and women will spend a little more time taking care of home responsibilities. British men, in particular, actually perform as much housework as their wives, while still spending more time at the office. That sound you hear in the background is a collective groan of despair as thousands of degrees in “Women’s Studies” sink further into irrelevance.

Dr. Hakim told The Telegraph that the data “overturn the well-entrenched theory that women work disproportional long hours in jobs and at home in juggling family and work.” She added that “feminists constantly complain that men are not doing their fair share of domestic work. The reality is that most men already do more than their fair share.”

Our friends on the Left must be simply ecstatic at the revelation that men and women are now equal partners in the sharing of life’s responsibilities. Yet the response so far seems to be a mixture of silence and direct misrepresentation of the facts. For example, the New York Times’ Economix Blog reported only the “household chores” findings of the American study, with the headline: “Egalitarianism be damned, women are still much more likely to engage in household chores on a typical day than men are.” No mention of the fact that the difference in time spent was only thirty-six minutes a day. Why highlight this discrepancy, but remain absolutely silent on the extra hour of work that men spend at the office?

The answer is quite simple: it doesn’t fit the feminist narrative that women are helpless victims in society and in their own homes. The Left can’t celebrate any findings that men and women are more like equal partners, or that men actually work longer hours on the job. Helpless victims, on the other hand, are in need of representation by a movement. That movement’s “wage gap” and “second shift” concepts are essential, not because they are an accurate portrayal of life, but because they help inspire support for Big Government policies.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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