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On An 'Average' American Day

BLS reports latest American Time Use Survey


On an "average day" in 2003, persons in the U.S. age 15 and over slept about 8.6 hours, spent 5.1 hours doing leisure and sports activities, worked for 3.7 hours, and spent 1.8 hours doing household activities. During the remaining 4.8 hours, Americans ate, drank, went to school and shopped. So, say the results of the first American Time Use Survey (ATUS) conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

While BLS has long produced statistics about the labor market, such as employment, hours, and earnings, the ATUS marks the first time that a federal statistical agency has produced estimates on how Americans spend another critical resource--their time. The ATUS collects data on the activities people do during the day and how much time they spend doing them.

Some highlights from the ATUS include:

  • On the days that they worked, employed men worked about an hour more than employed women--8.0 versus 7.1 hours.

  • Employed adult women (18 years and over) spent about an hour more per day than employed adult men doing household activities and caring for household members.

  • On days that they worked, about 1 in 5 employed persons did some or all of their work at home.

  • Adults in households without children spent about 1.4 hours more per day engaged in leisure and sports activities than those with children.

    To compile the ATUS, the Census Bureau interviewed of about 21,000 individuals beginning in January 2003. Respondents were interviewed only once and reported their activities for the 24-hour period from 4 a.m. on the day before the interview until 4 a.m. on the day of the interview--their "diary day." If respondents reported doing more than one activity at a time, they were asked to identify which activity was primary. Activities were then grouped into categories for analysis.

    For example:

    Household Activities

  • On an average day in 2003, 84 percent of women and 63 percent of men spent some time doing household activities, such as housework, cooking, lawn care, or financial and other household management.

  • Twenty percent of men reported doing housework--such as cleaning or doing laundry--compared with 55 percent of women. About 35 percent of men did food preparation or cleanup versus 66 percent of women.

  • Women who reported doing household activities on the diary day spent about 2.8 hours on such activities while men spent 2.1 hours.

    Leisure Activities

    On an average day in 2003, nearly everyone (96 percent) age 15 and over reported some sort of leisure or sports activity, such as watching TV, socializing, or exercising. Including the small proportion of the population that reported no leisure activities, men spent more time doing leisure activities (5.4 hours) than women (4.8 hours).

    Watching TV was the leisure activity that occupied the most time, accounting for about half of leisure time on average for both men and women. Socializing, such as visiting with friends or attending or hosting social events, was the next most common leisure activity, accounting for about three-quarters of an hour per day for both sexes.

    Speaking of sex, that activity was counted as a "personal care" category, rather than a leisure activity, and not reported in the survey.

    [Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics]

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