Americans of Both Genders Could Probably Stand To “Lean In” a Bit Less

Catherine Rampell offers a nice counterpoint to lean-in thinking with this factoid:

Unaccounted for in the latest books offering leadership strategies by and for elite women is the fact that only 37 percent of working women (and 44 percent of working men) say they actually want a job with more responsibilities, according to a survey from the Families and Work Institute. And among all mothers with children under 18, just a quarter say they would choose full-time work if money were no object and they were free to do whatever they wanted, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll.

I think it’s worth emphasizing the relatively small gender gap here (especially considering the rather large gender gap in the assignment of household responsibilities) with men and women alike being somewhat skeptical about the idea of taking on more responsibility. It’s also worth noting that regardless of gender or marital status, Americans work a lot more hours per year than people in most other developed countries.

What’s more, that work gap is actually unusually concentrated among women. When Alexander Bick and Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln compared the working hours of prime aged (25-54) in the United States and Europe, they found that single American men work 94.3 more hours per year than the average person in their sample. Married American men work 185.7 more hours a year. But women—whether married or single—put in almost 229.4 additional hours per year in formal paid work than the average woman in Europe. And yet Americans generally have larger families and more domestic responsibilities with those responsibilities, again, predominantly falling on women. Some of that reflects poor labor market opportunities for women in some of these countries and is not a situation we’d want to emulate. But the fact is that for a high-income nation, Americans as a whole engage in a remarkably large amount of paid labor and relatively little leisure.