Why Unemployed Men Don’t Do Housework


man doing dishesWomen have long been annoyed that they do more housework than men, as demonstrated by many studies, but now they are really steamed.

Last December, The New York Times reported on a regrettable trend. The number of men between the ages of 25 and 54 who are unemployed is at all-time high: 16 of every 100 men in that age range have not been able to find jobs — compared to the 1960s, when only about five of every 100 men were without work.

Why the increasing number of unemployed men in this age range? More are still in school. Some have retired early, not necessarily by choice. Others are on disability. And, discouraged by our still-struggling economy, others have dropped out of the workforce.

Rather than trying to understand and correct this growing trend, some are more interested in another finding about unemployed males: that even when men are out of work, they STILL do less housework than women!

As it goes, a fellow named Josh Katz reviewed data from the American Time Use Survey and compared how much housework and care giving “non employed” Americans do.

“The survey compared 147 women with 147 men,” says Salon. “Out of that group, 81 women spent most of their time on housework or caring for others, compared with 34 of the men.”

So, what do unemployed men do with their time? Many watch TV. The survey found 46 of the unemployed men reported sitting around and watching the tube, compared with only 19 of the unemployed women.

Slate says this makes sense because other time-use surveys find that “men spend an average of three more hours a week than women on leisure time, whereas women spend three more hours a week than men on housework.”

The Slate article concludes that the reason women handle more housework than men — even unemployed men — is “because it’s understood as their duty to get this work done in a way that is not true for men.”

But I think the answer is much simpler than that: Men and women are different.

The fact is, men and women are wired differently — our DNA is different, and the reason why goes back thousands of years. But don’t ask me, ask therapist and social philosopher Michael Gurian.

In his book, “What Could He Be Thinking? How a Man’s Mind Really Works,” he cites decades of neurobiological research and brain scans that show the male and female brains are very different.

Take listening. One brain-imaging study shows that men listen with only one side of the brain, whereas women use both. Women wouldn’t believe how many other things we men use only half a brain to do.

Another brain study shows that the male brain doesn’t pick up as many sensory cues as the female brain. When a man walks into his house, he is less likely to notice dust — which, apparently, consists of fine, dry particles that settle on furniture.

I like a clean house, but it takes me forever to get it done and I loathe every moment of it. Yet I love cleaning my car and am happy to spend a couple hours making it just right

That’s not to say men should not understand their shortcomings and manually override their bad habits to pick up their housework game. I’m just saying that our DNA is what it is, and it may take many years before men also are wired to do their fair share of the housework.

So, rather than focus on housework imperfections of unemployed males, wouldn’t we all be better off if we focused on getting these fellows back to work?

Work is good for the soul, for happy marriages and households, and we certainly need more tax receipts to cover our country’s bills.


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  • Mom of Boys

    I have a husband, one daughter, and eight sons. The daughter is grown and out on her own. I live with testosterone on all sides. Frankly, I don’t think they even see the dirt. They’re perfectly content to wear the same clothes three days in a row and they just do their business outside if the bathroom stinks. I agree with the article. They don’t do housework because they’re not wired to even notice it needs to be done. I love them anyway and I think God for their robust masculinity–but I am trying to teach them to pick up after themselves and to raise the toilet seat.

  • Subvet

    This article is pure baloney. I’m the stay-at-home father who cooks, cleans, does laundry in addition to repairing the appliances, fixing the plumbing, etc. The wife works as an RN. We live this way mainly due to the following factors: 1) an age difference of 22 years (I’m 62). She’ll probably be working long after I die. 2) We have three special needs (high functioning autism) children aged 11, 10 and 7. Therefore one of us needs to be home when they’re here (didja think we’d schlep them off to some daycare? Ain’t happening!). 3) I am definetly the better housekeeper, cook and on call parent for the teachers as proven by our experiences of the past 17 years. REAL men can do housework if they get off their high horse and break out the broom & vacuum cleaners. As for any snide comments regarding my masculinity (there are suprisingly few) before meeting the wife I put in 22 years in the submarine force, retiring as a senior chief mechanic, I’m 6’3″, well over two hundred pounds and for relaxation go for physical exercise. These days that amounts to five mile walks with the dog (time takes it’s toll on us all). Any “man” who claims he can’t clean up after himself is just a little boy still wanting “mommy” to take care of him.

    • Michele Marie

      I think I agree with both your comments! Many men are described in this article. But I’ve met many who are the cooks in their house, the better housekeepers (extra bonus points for those who’ve been well trained in preparing for inspections in the military!!!)- This author is a humorist, so I think part of this was tongue in cheek! Subvet, thanks for your service, and your wife seems to be a lucky lady! ps, My Husband is WAY better with the vacuum cleaner than I am! He goes for all the nooks and crannies!