Research shows that, on average, parents expect their daughters to do more chores than their sons, while giving them a lower allowance. They may be setting them up to be less successful as adults.
If you have a daughters, do you give them an allowance? Is it less than the allowance their brothers receive? If your children help with housework, do you expect your daughters to spend more time on chores than your sons?
If you're like most parents, the answer to each of these questions is yes--even though you may not intend it. Dispiriting new research shows that, on average, 15-to-19-year-old girls do 45 minutes of chores per day, while for boys in that age group the average is 30 minutes.
Despite working less, boys earn more for the chores they perform. BusyKid, an app which allows parents to pay kids for the chores they perform, did an analysis this summer of 10,000 families that use the app, and discovered that on average, boys are paid more than twice as much per week for the chores they do, getting $13.80 compared to girls' $6.71boys. The app also allows for parents to pay bonuses, and boys get more in bonus pay than girls do. Disturbingly, the analysis also found that boys are likelier to be paid for personal hygiene, such as brushing their teeth or taking a shower.
It seems unlikely that most parents are intentionally underpaying or overworking their daughters. Most may have what seem like good reasons for paying an individual boy more than his sisters or expecting him to spend less time on chores. But the fact that there are such striking differences across so many families suggests that unconscious bias is guiding these decisions, even for parents who intend to treat their children as equals.
In a statement, BusyKid CEO Gregg Murset called the results of the company's analysis shocking. "As a father of both boys and girls I think this is an important wake up call," he added. "I don't think any parent would intentionally pay differently based on gender, but clearly, it's happening."
So girls spend a little more time on housework and boys get a few dollars more. Why is that a problem? Because two of the most often cited explanations for the persistence of the gender pay gap is that women don't demand or expect to be paid as much as their male colleagues do, and that most women--even if they're breadwinners--perform more than half of household chores. In effect, experts say, this amounts to a second part-time job that siphons off some of the time and energy women would otherwise devote to our careers.
"Chores are really practice for adult living, so the problem is it just gets generationally perpetuated," Christia Spears Brown, psychology professor at the University of Kentucky, told The New York Times.
It can also be inherited. Even if you are scrupulously fair in apportioning chores and allowance dollars to children of both genders, they can still get the wrong idea if they see an unfair division of housework among the adults in their lives. One study found, not surprisingly, that boys who see their fathers doing housework (or who grow up with single mothers) are more likely to grow up and take on a fair share of the household chores themselves.
That can create an advantage for those young men, not in the workplace but in their personal lives. That's because successful and financially independent women tend to prefer partners who do their fair share of household chores, according to Sandra Hofferth, a sociologist at the University of Maryland.
If you want to set your children up to expect and give equal treatment, make very sure you treat them that way yourself while they're kids. Otherwise, you could be doing a disservice to your daughters--and your sons as well.