Manning School of Business Professors Co-Author Brookings Institution Research Paper Divulging Gender-Based Division of Labor

A woman works at a desk at home while holding a child Image by Getty Images
Artificial intelligence has the potential to help with the "invisible" components of managing domestic labor, according to a new research paper for the Brookings Institution by Manning School of Business Assoc. Profs. Elizabeth J. Altman and Beth Humberd.


Media Contacts: Emily Gowdey-Backus, director of media relations and Nancy Cicco, assistant director of media relations
Since ChatGPT launched late last year, countless news stories, podcasts and think pieces have examined the potential impact of artificial intelligence, or AI, on education and the workforce.
One area that has received far less attention, though, is AI’s impact on life at home.
In a newly published research paper for the Brookings Institution, Manning School of Business Elizabeth J. Altman and Beth Humberd, associate professors of management, explore how AI and related emerging technologies like autonomous vehicles can help with the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of running a household – and whether the technology can alleviate the age-old disparity between men and women when it comes to taking care of this work.
“The better these technologies become, the more they will help people who are managing families, children and households,” Altman said. “The question is: How does that affect the conversation about domestic labor?”
Altman, who was recently named a Nonresident Fellow in the Economic Studies program at Brookings, co-authored a policy report for the institution in April on workforce ecosystems and AI. When she was asked to write a follow-up paper on the promise of emerging technologies to address the gender gap in domestic labor, she brought in Humberd, whose research expertise includes dual-career families and the changing nature of work.
“We've worked alongside each other for a long time but never collaborated on a paper, so it was a nice intersection of both of our areas of expertise,” Humberd said.
Altman and Humberd sat down to discuss the research, which focuses specifically on married or cohabiting heterosexual couples in the United States, with or without children – but could be expanded in the future to include other family environments. Here is a snippet:
Q: How big is the gender gap in household labor?
Humberd: Fifty years ago, of course, women did more of the housework and men did more of the paid work. As more women entered the paid workforce and the number of dual-career couples increased, men started to pick up more of the slack and take on more household labor and child care. But the gap persists today, even in dual-career couples and, most interestingly, even where the woman is the chief breadwinner. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does American Time-Use surveys that show women are doing about one and a half times as much as men when it comes to household management and caregiving – about 4.5 hours to 2.75 hours per day.
The complete interview is available on the UMass Lowell website. If you’d like to speak with either Altman or Humberd, please reach out to Emily Gowdey-Backus or Nancy Cicco.