Americans: Overworked, Overstressed

Experts who accept some of the arguments of both sides often focus less on individuals' hours worked, instead looking at household hours on the job.

In Overworked and Underemployed, a study in The American Prospect that looks at the issue, Barry Bluestone and Stephen Rose argue that to really understand the situation that Americans face, you need to look beyond individuals and beyond the numbers.

The overall figures for how many hours a week the average American works have been held down by the increasing number of part-time service and retail jobs in the economy. But since many of the part-time jobs have been filled by the increasing number of women in the workforce, and many of these women had previously been housewives, there are fewer hours when anyone is taking care of household chores.

Instead of coming home to find the refrigerator and cupboards stocked, dinner ready, the table set, the clothes washed, the house clean and the children entertained, men are coming home and finding they have to chip in, because their wives aren't "the little woman," anymore. They are now sharing duties as breadwinner, which means men have to share household chores.

If men in particular aren't spending quite as many more hours at work as they think they are, the fact that they aren't allowed as much leisure time once they're off work might account for the apparent illusion.

Authors like Fraser, Schor and Ciullo, though, argue that there is no illusion, and the case made by the harried Americans who fill their books — and fill commuter trains and highways — is hard to discount.

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