Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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I Think I’m Bringing Down The Average

So I was reading a Stats Can report the other day1 and came across some interesting data on housework2,3:

Time spent on domestic work varied among women according to their working arrangements. Among women who were working at the time of the survey, those who were part of a dual-earner couple and worked part-time spent the most time on domestic work—an average of 21.0 hours per week. Less time was spent on domestic work by full-time working women who were part of a dual-earner couple (13.9 hours per week), or women who were the sole wage earner in a single-earner couple (15.2 hours per week). The least amount of time was spent by single working women. On average, they spent 7.7 hours per week on domestic work. [emphasis mine]

To me, this seems like quite a drastic difference! Women who were part of a dual-income couple did quite a bit more housework (13.9 hrs per week if they worked full-time and 21 hrs per week if they worked part-time) than single women (7.7 hrs per week). Most surprisingly, women who were in a couple where their partner didn’t do any paid work did more housework (15.2 hrs per week) than women in couples where their partner did paid work (13.9 hrs per week)! Shouldn’t they be doing less housework?

To me, the most striking question from all of this is: how come single women need so much less housework done than coupled women? Remember, the data on coupled women is only the housework being done by the women – there is also housework being done by their partner! For example, in couples where both partners work full-time, the women do 13.9 hrs and the men do 8.6 hrs for a total of 22.5 hrs per week. Compared to the single women doing 7.7 hrs per week, that’s nearly three times as much housework being done in that household4! I realize there there is a bit more housework to be done when two people live in a house – twice as many dishes, twice as much laundry – but the total workload shouldn’t even be twice as much as there are some things that don’t take longer by having more people in the house (e.g., vaccuuming). I suppose some of the extra workload could be attributed to housework related to children that isn’t child care per se (e.g., I know from my friends with kids that they generate a heck of a lot of laundry, especially when they are very little), but would this make the workload three times as much? I suppose it’s possible that single women are more likely to hire, say, a housekeeper, since they don’t have anyone else in their house to share the housework with, but that data wasn’t provided. Another possibility is that more single people rent (as opposed to owning a place) compared to coupled people5 and owning comes along with more maintanance tasks that renters don’t need to worry about (e.g., fixing things, cleaning gutters). Any other thoughts on why single people do so much less housework than coupled people? Or am I just bringing down the average?

Another thing in the report is, not surprisingly, that women do more of the unpaid domestic chores than men (on average) and men do more paid work than women (again, on average). But apparently that’s changing:

During the past quarter century, the involvement of men and women in paid work and housework has changed. A study1 comparing three generations of young people—the late baby boomers (born 1957 to 1966), Generation X (1969 to 1978) and Generation Y (1981 to 1990) found an increasing similarity in the involvement in paid work and housework between men and women from the late baby boomers to those in Generation Y.

Despite the narrowing of the differences, men continue to have an overall greater involvement in paid work than women, and a lesser involvement in housework.

For example, at ages 20 to 29, late baby boom men did on average 1.4 hours more paid work per day than women. In Generation Y, this difference had narrowed to 1.1 hours.

Late baby boom women, when they were aged 20 to 29, did 1.2 hours more housework per day than men. By the time Generation Y arrived at the same age group, the difference had narrowed to 0.4 hours. This was due entirely to a decrease in the time women spent on housework.

When looking only at dual-earner couples, the dominant family form since the 1980s, the study found that young adults are increasingly sharing economic and domestic responsibilities. As women have increased their hours of paid work, men have steadily increased their share of household work.

Women aged 20 to 29 in dual-earner couples in Generation Y did an average of 6.7 hours of paid work per day in 2010, up from 6.4 hours for their counterparts in Generation X.

On the other hand, dual-earner women in Generation Y did 53% of the total housework done by couples, down from 59% for their counterparts in Generation X.

Average daily time spent on paid work and housework by men and women in young dual-earner couples is more similar for those without children and particularly so for Generation Y.

However, for both Generation X and Y, with the presence of dependent children at home, the contribution of women to a couple’s total paid work time declined while their contribution to housework increased.

My question about all this is: only 6.7 hours per day of paid work? Pfft! I could do that in my sleep!

  1. What, you don’t read Stats Canada reports?? []
  2. What, you don’t think data on housework is “interesting”? []
  3. Note that “housework” did not include child care, which was discussed in a separate part of the report. Housework included unpaid domestic work such as “housework, yard work and home maintenance.” []
  4. Single men do 6.1 hrs per week, meaning there is nearly four times as much housework being done in household of a dual earner full-time working couple []
  5. This may be my Vancouver-based assumption, given that it’s nearly impossible to own a place on a single income here. Hell, it’s nearly impossible to own a place on two incomes here! []

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Why You Should Care About the Government Scrapping the Mandatory Long-Form Census

I wrote this posting for my other blog, but I figured that I’d post it here too, given that (a) most of my readers probably don’t read my other blog and (b) I just had a little debate on the issue on my Facebook wall, which prompted me to share this info a little more widely (also, I’m adding in a few more things than my original posting):

A friend of mine just sent me a link to this news story and it’s gotten me quite livid:

Tories scrap mandatory long-form census
StatsCan says quality of data will suffer

Every five years, Canada conducts a census, with the next one scheduled for 2011. In the past, every household received the short census form, which contains just a few questions (like number of people in the home and their age and sex) and 1 in every 5 households received a mandatory long form. The long form contained questions about a variety of things, like income, education, and ethnicity, and provided a lot of really important information about the population of Canada. For example, I work in health care and we use census data all the time. Knowing the makeup of our population allows us to make informed decisions about providing health care to meet the needs of the people living in our region. All levels of governments (municipal, provincial, and federal), community agencies, and other organizations use the data from the census long form to develop evidence-informed policy.

But the ability to do that now at risk, as the federal government has, apparently without consulting anyone, decided to scrap the mandatory long form, citing that the long form represented “what most Canadians felt was an intrusion into their personal privacy in terms of answering the longer form” (Source) – though I haven’t seen from anything I’ve read thus far how they determined that this is how “most” Canadians feel. And given that Canada’s Privacy Commissioner has had only 3 privacy complaints in the last 10 years, “none of which have been upheld” (Source and Source), I’m doubting that “most” Canadians are up in arms about the intrusiveness of the census. Instead of the mandatory long form, they are replacing it with a “voluntary household survey” that will be sent to 1 in 3 households, the members of which can choose to complete – or not to complete – the survey. This raises very serious concerns about the quality of the data – the people who choose not to respond to the long survey may be different from those who choose to respond to it, which will result in skewed information. Which means we won’t have the data we need to make policies and provide appropriate services.

“Senior statisticians at Statistics Canada have conceded the change will make it more difficult to obtain reliable, detailed information.” (Source)

All of this brings up questions about politicians’ understanding of the importance of data and evidence-informed practice, not to mention their ignoring the scientific experts on the matter – in this case, the statisticians at Stats Canada (and any other statistician who has been asked). As David Eaves noted in his article, “Why you should care about the sudden demise of the mandatory long census form”:

This is a direct attack on the ability of government to make smart decisions. It is an attack on evidence-based public policy. Moreover, it was a political decision – it came from the minister’s office and does not appear to reflect what Statistics Canada either wants or recommends. Of course, some governments prefer not to have information; all that data and evidence gets in the way of legislation and policies that are ineffective, costly and that reward vested interests (I’m looking at you, tough-on-crime agenda). ” [emphasis mine; Source]

In another news article on the topic I read:

Liberal MP Marlene Jennings “argued that Clement has shown in postings to the social media site Twitter that he does not understand how the mandatory nature of the long-form census allows Statistics Canada to properly weight the short form data. Clement debated sample size and data weighting with other posters, including an economist.

“(That’s) something Mr. Clement seemed not to understand when he was tweeting yesterday, so maybe he should take a stats course,” she said” (Source)


A graph showing ethnic origins of Canadians fr...

Image via Wikipedia


This lead me to check out Clement’s Twitter stream, where he referred to having a mandatory (as opposed to voluntary) long form as “state coercion” – I guess it’s fine to have the state “coerce” you to complete the short form – or, you know, obey any of our other laws – but they draw the line at the long form?  And as for his understanding of statistics – well, he said that statisticians can fix the problems resulting from the bias that will result from a voluntary (instead of mandatory) form with “large sample sizes.”  Now, I, my Official Statistician, and anyone who has passed a first year statistics course can assure you that this is not true.  There is no way to create data from any groups that don’t respond to a voluntary census.

As I mentioned, I was engaged in a debate about this on my Facebook wall and my sister’s contribution to that was so awesome, I just have to share it with you.  Essentially, the debate I was having involved the other person making claims like the mandatory long form of the census is “undemocratic” because it invades our privacy and that the census is “inaccurate” (then suggesting that market research, which would not be appropriate for the purpose of the census, would be better), and, of course, that the long census being mandatory is “state coercion” (i.e., Tony Clement’s words).  My sister’s comment:

Does anyone else find it funny to read a conversation about protecting privacy and rights on Facebook? Why does everyone want to envision the government like something out of a science fiction novel. We are the government. We have health-care, public/secondary and post-secondary education at a fraction of its real cost. If my personal data on who does more house work in my home or if my child can read can help society as a whole, of course they can have it and should have it. Do we really feel safer with the illusion that we are protecting ourselves from exploitation because it is not mandatory? Is this before or after we have posted up our kids latest baseball game home movie on YouTube?

-My sister

She has it exactly right.  Statisticians, academics, social scientists and like need access to the robust data provided by a mandatory census in order to provide services to Canadians.  The Conservative government and their supporters are making it sound like we are sitting around planning all sorts of nefarious things to do with census data – completely ignoring the fact that there are lots of safeguards on the privacy of census data.

Stuff you can do about this:

  • The Liberals are demanding the Conservatives reverse this decision to scrap the mandatory long form and, if they don’t, to introduce legislation to protect it themselves. Personally, I’ll be writing to my own MP, Industry Minister Tony Clement, and the Prime Minister to inform them about why the long form is so vital. And I’ll be writing to some Liberals to suggest that they stick to their guns on this one and introduce legislation to protect the mandatory long form.  Don’t know who your MP is? You can search here to find out!
  • Sign the petition: http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/keep-the-canadian-census-long-form.html
  • Spread the word!

Remember, even if you aren’t going to use the census data directly, this is an issue that affects you and the services you receive!

Image Credit: First image posted by lusi on Stock Exchange. Free to use under the terms listed on that site.  Second image has the reference in the caption.

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