The Time Divide

It’s grown wider:

Today, whether you’re male or female, if you’re taking home an upper-middle-class salary you’re expected to work an average of 50 hours, and probably more, a lot of it after you’ve gone home. As of 1997, the average workweek for a man with graduate education was 50 hours, and for a women 47—that three-hour difference can be accounted for, of course, by all the women who went on mommy tracks. Among American dual-career couples, in the 1990s, 15.2 percent of those with at least college degrees worked a joint 100 hours a week or more, whereas only 9.6 of couples without diplomas did that. Try to imagine what that 100-hour workweek looked like to a child: that’s five 10-hour days, plus commutes, for both parents. And those are just averages—for people at the top of their fields, the numbers were a great deal bigger.

That the workweek is ballooning for America’s educated, salaried classes, even as it’s shrinking for less educated, hourly workers, or turning into part-time work, has been called the “time divide”—the increasing inequality of time spent working, which tracks with the rise of economic inequality. As of 2002, for example, Americans in the top fourth of earners toiled an average of 15 hours more than earners in the bottom fourth.