America's working dads are doing lots more childcare and housework than they used to. So maybe that's why, in the last few decades, they started feeling the work-family squeeze a lot more, surpassing working moms.
At least, that's one finding from the White House's Economic Report of the President, a massive analysis released Thursday on the state of the US economy.
True, it's just four datapoints from two years, and there are a lot of different ways to ask different genders how they feel about work-life balance (the Pew Research Center in 2013 found that men and women nearly equally feel work-life balance is difficult). But if men are feeling the pinch more and more, it suggests something big about the changing nature of what it means to be in an American two-earner family. One way of reading this finding is that, faced with the prospect of increasingly juggling work and family, men feel a lot more "conflicted" now that they're doing more housework and childcare than they were a few decades ago, whereas women have juggled these for a long time (White House Economist Betsey Stevenson told reporters on Wednesday that women tend to laugh at this chart when they see it). Indeed, the White House also found that men are doing more than twice the childcare and housework they did in the 1960s.
Of course, there's still a clear gender divide between paid and unpaid work. Interestingly, when you add together working dads' and working moms' average daily hours working both in the house and at the office, they do roughly the same amount of work each day, even while women spend far less time in paid work, according to the American Time Use Survey.
The Obama administration is pushing for states to set up programs allowing more workers to have family leave. But if the goal is to equalize men's and women's places in the workforce (and at home), the answer may be to go further and specifically set aside parental leave for men. As a recent NBER working paper found, dads started doing more housework when Quebec instituted parental leave for dads. Not only that, but women started working and earning more. The way to make work and family life more equal may be to help dads feel like they have not only the duty but the right to take care of the kids...and to specifically tell them so.