Mount Allison student researcher examining division of labour among Canadian households

31 Jul 2019

RebekahHowlett_PPEEconomicsStudentResearchRebekah Howlett, a honours philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE) student is spending her summer examining a societal topic — the division of workloads by gender in and outside the home — through an economic lens.

For her research project, The persistence of the second shift for working women, Howlett received an independent summer research grant from the University. She is working with Mount Allison economics professor and project supervisor Dr. Carla VanBeselaere.

“My project is looking at traditional gender roles, workloads, and paid versus unpaid labour, using data from Statistics Canada from 1992 and 2015,” she explains. “Looking at the two datasets, 23 years apart, it’s interesting to see how some of the gaps in traditional roles have not changed that much over the past two decades, as well as some of the changes that have been reported. I’ve found that overall women reported doing more unpaid hours (chores and childcare) and had larger total workloads (paid and unpaid hours) per week and this increased significantly when you factored in multi-tasking, while men reported more hours spent on paid labour in the data sets reviewed.”

Howlett examined the general social survey, a voluntary survey issued by Statistics Canada. Her study focused on respondents working full-time who identified as married or common law who were dual working couples with at least one child in the home. She is analyzing the number of hours per week reported by respondents for both paid and unpaid labour in and outside the home.

“Rebekah’s work on gender roles looks at the timely issue of how work is divided between couples,” says Economics professor, Dr. Carla VanBeselaere, who is Howlett’s supervisor. “In her work Rebekah applies economic tools to look at this important social issue.”

Howlett says she was inspired to look at this topic after reading The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home by American sociologist and academic Arlie Hochschild. The book, which focuses on paid and unpaid workloads and division of these in and outside the home, was originally published in 1989 with an updated version released in 2012.

From Dartmouth, NS, Howlett says she came to Mount Allison to pursue the philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE) program, one of only a few programs of its kind in Canada. She is focusing on economics with a minor in commerce.

This is Howlett’s first summer in Sackville pursuing research. She worked for the Nova Scotia Department of Business in 2018 as one of Mount Allison’s L.R. Wilson Interns. The internship program is designed to provide PPE students with an experiential learning opportunity in policy development.

“I’m really interested in the policy side of things,” she says. “I’d like to eventually work on policy recommendations and reviews in the future. Looking at this economic data over the summer, I think we need to work to normalize things like parental leave for families.”

Outside her research and studies, Howlett is involved in a number of activities on campus including serving as the chief returning officer for the Mount Allison Students’ Union, working as a teacher’s assistant in economics, and volunteering with SMILE (Sensory Motor Instructional Leadership Experience), which sees Mount Allison students paired up weekly with a local youth who has a developmental disability at the YMCA. She is also president of Change Your Mind, a student group with the goal of promoting mental health and decreasing the stigma attached to mental illness.

Howlett plans to present her research on campus and at a regional conference later this fall.

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