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Vidhya Nagarajan for Fatherly

The Chore Gap Is a Problem — and an Opportunity — for American Families

A new survey sheds light on the perils of unfairly divided housework and the benefits of getting it right.

This story was produced in partnership with Dawn and Swiffer.

Somewhere in your house right now there’s a situation that’s necessitating a chore. Maybe the floor of your kid’s room is covered in clothes. Or the sink is full of dirty dishes. Or the trash can in the bathroom is stuffed to its limits. But while we can all agree that picking up the laundry, doing the dishes, and emptying out the trash are tasks that someone needs to do, a new survey from Dawn and Swiffer reveals that who ends up doing them is a thornier question.

In short, there’s a chore gap that’s dividing families. Are things better than they were in the days of rigidly prescribed gender roles? Probably. Is an imbalance of chores still causing friction within a lot of American families? Absolutely.

But it’s not all bad news. There’s also evidence that closing the chore gap in your own home has benefits that go way beyond keeping the house clean. The most constructive way to see the following survey, then, isn’t as depressing evidence of the stubbornness of the chore gap but the opportunity that closing it presents to American spouses, kids, and families as a whole.

A majority of women say they do the majority of the housework.

In 65% of households the responsibility for most chores still falls on one person. And it probably won’t come as a surprise that women are more than twice as likely to say that person is them. In some households that might be OK—those with a stay-at-home parent that it’s agreed will handle most of the domestic workload come to mind—but in others it’s clearly a source of tension.

The status quo isn’t working for women.

More men than women are satisfied with how domestic responsibilities are divided in their home than women. Clearly, many women who are doing more chores aren’t happy about it, and it’s easy to see why. That’s because, on average, women spend over 100 hours (or two-and-a-half work weeks) per year more on household chores. That’s time they could be using to get ahead at work, play with the kids, or simply relax. And it’s time they’re currently spending preventing their houses from descending into messy chaos.

When men help out more, it’s good for them and their marriage.

Lest you think that fixing the chore gap within a household simply benefits the spouse whose burden is lightened to the equivalent detriment of the spouse whose burden is increased, the survey suggests that it’s actually good for everyone when spouses evenly split household chores. People who made the division of labor in their households more equitable consistently reported that the change improved their relationships. Majorities said they felt closer to their partner and that their relationship was stronger, while near-majorities felt more respected, saw their spouse as happier, and had more time for romance.

Closing the chore gap benefits kids.

Of course, mom and dad aren’t the only ones who can do chores. Kids can pitch in too, and the survey suggests that they should for the good of the family. Parents whose children helped out more around the house during the pandemic—when millions of parents and children started spending a lot more time in the house—had lots of positive things to say about the experience. Hefty percentages reported that their kids became more grateful, more respectful, and more solution-oriented. And nearly a third said that their relationship with their kids was stronger after the kids started to help out more.