Americans, Europeans Spending Less Time on Housework

Image of a money cigaretteWith just 24 hours in a day, time is a limited resource. According to new research from the Atlanta Fed, how we allocate those precious hours has changed quite a bit over the past 50 years.

The paper, "Home Hours in the United States and Europe," compares trends and levels of home work hours on both sides of the Atlantic. Perhaps not surprisingly, authors Lei Fang and Cara McDaniel found that both Americans and Europeans spent fewer hours on household chores than they did in the 1960s. Americans, among all nationalities studied, spent the least amount of time on such tasks, which include laundry, cleaning, and cooking.

Employment, net wealth key determinants
Women's decisions about how to allocate their time are driving the cross-country differences, the authors found. Indeed, the decline in home hours is entirely due to women, as men in all of the countries in the study saw their home hours increase. Moreover, countries with larger declines in home hours have a larger decline in female home hours.

It's not all work and no play, however. "Although both men and women reallocate their time from market to home and vice versa, they are also allocating more time to other activities, mainly leisure," the researchers noted.

Young, old groups display biggest differences
Another pattern to emerge was that prime-aged Americans and Europeans exhibited similar time allocations than did the young and old groups. The authors also find that across countries, decades, and sexes, the young spent less time and the old spent more time at home than prime-age individuals.

Overall, "combined work [the sum of market and home work] has declined for all age groups of both sexes, although the lowest and highest decreases were found for the prime-age group and the young group, respectively," they said.

To learn more about how people spend their time across age, gender, and country, read the full paper at