We should add a new dimension to the immigration debate. Because of the low-skilled help they hire, highly skilled women devote more time to work.
Low-skilled female immigrant labor occupies a disproportionate segment of the group doing housekeeping, childcare and elder care. Looking at an influx of immigrants from 1980 to 2000, researchers found that these low-skilled workers represented just 1.9% of the labor force. However, they became 25% of all household workers and 12% of the people doing laundry and dry cleaning.
Highly skilled women facilitate their careers when they hire low-skilled labor. On the professional side, female lawyers, physicians and investment bankers can put in 50 and 60 hour workweeks. Meanwhile at home, they can spend less time on household chores.
Several groups of researchers have arrived at similar conclusions for women in the U.S., Italy and Brazil. In each study, inexpensive home help let skilled women work longer hours. Correspondingly, especially for women with younger children, they were able to do less at home.
Similar to the 1980-2000 statistics, in 2015, low-skilled immigrants had personal services jobs:
Our Bottom Line: Household Production
First explained by Nobel Laureate Gary Becker, the family combines the land, labor and capital it needs to “produce” children. Like a small factory, household members engage in a division of labor. Traditionally, the husband was in the workplace while the wife was the “domestic specialist.” Now though, by hiring low-skilled help, those who would have remained at home are “outsourcing” their responsibilities.
So, if you think factory rather than family, a new image of your household emerges. Where you live is your land while your house, the stove, and the beds are some of your capital. As for the labor, we have a dad, a mom and the people hired to do childcare, cooking and cleaning.
For highly skilled women, low-skilled immigrants make “home factories” functional.
My sources and mores: Touching key issues, this NY Times article and this Brookings Report provide a good immigration overview. But then, for the academic perspective on women in the U.S. and in Italy and Brazil, do look at these papers. Finally, if you want to take a final step and see how free time makes us happy, this article was interesting.