How Much Time Do Teenagers Spend Not Goofing Off?

Women do more household chores than men. But how about teenage girls? Here’s the New York Times:

One recent analysis, for example, found that boys ages 15 to 19 do about half an hour of housework a day, and girls about 45 minutes. Although girls spend a little less time on chores than they did a decade ago, the time that boys spend hasn’t significantly changed.

For some reason this got me curious, so I clicked the link and got this very brief note in the PAA Affairs newsletter from last summer:

Huh. Girls appear to spend a higher percentage of something doing a higher percentage of something, but beyond that it’s not clear what this chart shows. I wonder what the Times reporter took from it?

Well, it’s just data from the American Time Use Survey. I can recreate it myself pretty easily. So I did:

So there you have it. On average, girls spend more time on household chores and caring for household members, while boys spend more time on work and school. In the broad category of “not goofing off,” girls spend 5 hours and 26 minutes per day, while boys spend 5 hours and 47 minutes. In case you’re interested, the other seven categories, which I bundled together under “goofing off,” include:

  • Personal care, including sleep
  • Eating and drinking
  • Purchasing goods and services
  • Civic and religious activities
  • Leisure and sports
  • Phone calls, email
  • Other

What does it all mean? I dunno. Adolescent girls do perform more time on household chores than boys but less time on education. So is our problem that girls need to spend more time on school? Boys need to spend more time on household chores? Or what?

In any case, I have no idea how the top chart persuaded the Times reporter that “boys ages 15 to 19 do about half an hour of housework a day, and girls about 45 minutes.” Perhaps both the y-axis and the labels are supposed to be minutes, not percentages? That must be it. But the raw data says the actual number is 63 minutes vs. 32 minutes. It is a mystery sometimes where the Times gets its information

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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