Kamila Kolpashnikova | Камила Колпашникова, 1 December 2018
It is not a secret that most of housework is done by women. With the exception of maintenance tasks. Some of us cook every day, others—prefer to cook on Sundays for the entire week. But what do we actually know about the habits of the average population when it comes to housework?
Which tasks are done routinely?
Figure 1. Average time spent on shopping, cooking, cleaning, and maintenance. American Time Use Survey, 2003-2017
Figure 1 shows that most tasks are done routinely, even though Americans spend a little more time on shopping and cleaning on weekends. Cooking time on working and weekend days varies less than in other housework tasks. An average American spends the least time on cooking on Fridays, probably because many prefer to eat out on Friday nights.
The figure also shows that there are certain days when Americans prefer to do housework tasks. For instance, more time on average is spent on shopping on Fridays and Saturdays than on other days, because people may prefer to do their grocery shopping for the weekend on the way home on Friday. On the other hand, Saturdays and Sundays are the days when people spend more time on cleaning, especially on Saturdays. Similar pattern is apparent in maintenance tasks, where Americans spend the least amount of time—because these tasks do not have to be performed regularly. Therefore, the time averaged out for the entire US population is not that long—the most is about 10 minutes on average Saturdays.
Which housework task is the most time-consuming?
Figure 1 also shows that shopping tasks eat up the most time out of all housework tasks. This is because in the calculation of shopping tasks, I also included the time respondents needed to travel to do shopping. Unlike Japan or Taiwan, US does not have a ubiquitous net of convenience stores with a great variety of products, so most people need to drive, walk, or bike to a grocery store. Because this travel time is essential for shopping, the total shopping time includes the travel time as well. Thus, the most-time-consuming task among routine tasks in the US is shopping, followed by cleaning and only then—cooking.
There are also considerable differences in how much time women spend on housework compared to men, summarized in Figure 2. The figure indicates that women spend a lot more time on housework tasks such as cooking and cleaning. Also, they spend less time on maintenance and repairs than men. The patterns by the day of the week are similar to those described for the total sample, with only one exception. Men are as likely to shop on Sundays as they are on Fridays. Therefore, Friday afternoon grocery shopping for the weekend on the way home from work might be what is more common among American women than men.
Figure 2. Average time spent on shopping, cooking, cleaning, and maintenance by women (top) and men (bottom). American Time Use Survey, 2003-2017
Moreover, although shopping is the most time-consuming tasks for the total sample and men, by breaking down the housework time by gender, we can see that for women—it is cleaning that takes up most of the time on any weekday except Friday.
Cite as: Kolpashnikova, Kamila (2018). How much time do Americans actually spend on housework?
 Bureau of Labor Statistics (2018). American Time Use Survey 2003-2017. Washington DC. http://www.bls.gov/tus/.