New Family and Work Survey at University of Cincinnati Finds Family Is Where the Heart Is

Cincinnati -- Contradicting the findings of a best-selling book, a new study by the University of Cincinnati's Kunz Center for the Study of Work and Family found that Ohio parents would rather spend time with their families than be at work, and that they were most happy and fulfilled when at home.

The first findings to be released from UC's new Survey of Ohio's Working Families found that Ohio's working families rejected the idea that work was a haven from the stresses of family life, as recently suggested in Arlie Hochschild's book "The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work" (1997). Only 12 percent of respondents said that they "very often" or "fairly often" felt that "work feels like home should feel." Similarly, only 7 percent of the respondents said they very or fairly often felt that they "want to go to work to escape life at home," while two-thirds said they rarely or never felt this way (click here to see a chart on this question).

More importantly, when asked to choose between work and home life, 90 percent said that they were happier at home, and 73 percent were more "fulfilled as a person" when at home. Responses to these questions were the same for men and women, blacks and whites, and for college graduates and non-graduates, said David J. Maume Jr., UC sociologist, Kunz Center director and author of the Ohio study.

More than 500 Ohio parents responded to a survey the center mailed to randomly selected parents in March 1998. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percent.

The book by Hochschild, a sociologist, contends that most people don't strike a happy balance between work and home, because we don't really want to. Hochschild's work presented findings from interviews with executives, clericals and factory workers employed in a Fortune 500 firm. She found that parents are putting more hours in at work to pursue their careers, which creates more stress at home, causing parents to spend even more time at work to escape the tension at home. Hochschild found that women and men alike prefer the camaraderie and recognition they receive at work to dealing with demanding children, burdensome household chores and the rushed pace of family life.

Whereas in the past people saw the home was as a haven from the heartless world of work, Hochschild found that people viewed the workplace as a haven from the relentless demands of family life.

Ohio parents admitted difficulty in balancing the demands of work and family life. Over 86 percent of respondents wished that they could spend "much more" or "a little more" time with their families. Respondents worked an average of 42 hours per week, and three-fourths were married to a spouse who also worked outside the home. Thirty-eight percent of respondents reported that they had missed a holiday, and 40 percent missed a child's school play or ballgame because of work obligations.

The contradiction of Hochschild's findings by the Survey of Ohio's Working Families is due to different survey approaches, according to Maume. "Hochschild interviewed people employed in a large firm that took great pains to make work a pleasant experience. But, many people work for smaller firms in insecure and routine jobs, in which home life offers a haven' from unsatisfactory work," he said.

The purpose of the Survey of Ohio's Working Families is to examine the many ways family deal with the problems of balancing work and family life, particularly in light of the dramatic changes in women's work and family roles in the last half century.


Steve Carlton-Ford
Department of Sociology
University of Cincinnati
PO Box 210378
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0378
Phone: (513) 556-4716
Fax: (513) 556-0057