American Time Use Survey Technical Note

Technical Note
 
 
   The estimates in this news release are based on annual average data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS).
The ATUS, which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is a
continuous survey about how individuals age 15 and over spend their time.
   Information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request.
Voice phone: (202) 691-5200; Federal Relay Service: (800) 877-8339.

Survey methodology
   Data collection for the ATUS began in January 2003. Sample cases for the survey are selected monthly, and
interviews are conducted continuously throughout the year. In 2015, approximately 10,900 individuals were
interviewed. Estimates are released annually.
   ATUS sample households are chosen from the households that completed their eighth (final) interview for the
Current Population Survey (CPS), the nationís monthly household labor force survey. ATUS sample households are
selected to ensure that estimates will be nationally representative.
   One individual age 15 or over is randomly chosen from each sampled household. This "designated person" is
interviewed by telephone once about his or her activities on the day before the interview--the "diary day."
   All ATUS interviews are conducted using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing. Procedures are in place
to collect information from the small number of households that did not provide a telephone number during the CPS
interview.
   ATUS designated persons are preassigned a day of the week about which to report. Preassignment is designed to
reduce variability in response rates across the week and to allow oversampling of weekend days so that accurate
weekend day measures can be developed. Interviews occur on the day following the assigned day. For example, a 
person assigned to report about a Monday would be contacted on the following Tuesday. Ten percent of designated
persons are assigned to report about each of the five weekdays. Twenty-five percent are assigned to report about
each weekend day. Households are called for up to 8 consecutive weeks (for example, 8 Tuesdays) in order to secure
an interview.

About the questionnaire
   In the time diary portion of the ATUS interview, survey respondents sequentially report activities they did
between 4 a.m. on the day before the interview ("yesterday") until 4 a.m. on the day of the interview. For each
activity, respondents are asked how long the activity lasted. For activities other than personal care activities
(such as sleeping and grooming), interviewers also ask respondents where they were and who was in the room with
them (if at home) or who accompanied them (if away from home). If respondents report doing more than one activity
at a time, they are asked to identify which one was the "main" (primary) activity. If none can be identified, then
the interviewer records the first activity mentioned. After completing the time diary, interviewers ask respondents
additional questions to clearly identify work, volunteering, and secondary childcare activities. Secondary childcare
is defined as having a child under age 13 in oneís care while doing other activities. Questions to identify eldercare
providers and activities done as eldercare were added to the survey in 2011.
   In addition, the ATUS includes an update of the household composition from the last CPS interview (2 to 5 months
prior to the ATUS interview), the labor force status of the respondent, and the employment status of his or her
spouse or unmarried partner.  For respondents who became employed or changed jobs between the last CPS interview
and the ATUS interview, information also is collected on industry, occupation, class of worker, and earnings.
Finally, a question about current school enrollment status is asked of all respondents ages 15 to 49.
   After completing the interview, primary activity descriptions are assigned a single 6-digit code using the ATUS
Coding Lexicon. The 3-tier coding system consists of 17 major activity categories, each with multiple second- and
third-tier subcategories. These coding lexicon categories are then combined into composite categories for publication,
such as in this news release. Descriptions of categories shown in this release can be found in the Major activity
category definitions section of this Technical Note. The ATUS Coding Lexicon can be accessed at
www.bls.gov/tus/lexicons.htm.
   Because of the complexity of coding everyday activities into narrowly-defined lexicon categories, coders use
a comprehensive set of rules to guide their decisions. Travel activities have more complicated coding rules than
other activities captured in the ATUS. In order to capture useful and detailed information, travel activities are
coded according to the purpose of travel. For more information, see Exhibit 5.1 of the ATUS Userís guide
www.bls.gov/tus/atususersguide.pdf.

Concepts and definitions
   Average day. The average day measure reflects an average distribution across all persons in the reference
population and all days of the week. Average day measures for the entire population provide a mechanism for seeing
the overall distribution of time allocation for society as a whole. The ATUS collects data about daily activities
from all segments of the population age 15 and over, including persons who are employed and not employed. Activity
profiles differ based upon age, employment status, gender, and other characteristics. On an average day in 2015,
persons in the United States age 15 and over did work and work-related activities for 3.5 hours, slept 8.8 hours,
spent 5.2 hours doing leisure and sports activities, and spent 1.8 hours doing household activities. The remaining
4.7 hours were spent doing a variety of other activities, including eating and drinking, attending school, and
shopping. (See table 1.) By comparison, an average weekday for persons employed full time on days that they worked
included 9.2 hours doing work and work-related activities, 7.8 hours sleeping, 2.9 hours doing leisure and sports
activities, and 0.9 hour doing household activities. The remaining 3.2 hours were spent in other activities, such
as those described above. (These estimates include related travel time.)
   Many activities typically are not done on a daily basis, and some activities only are done by a subset of the
population. For example, only 42 percent of all persons age 15 years and over worked on an average day in 2015
because some were not employed and those who were employed did not work every day. (See table 1.)

   Average hours per day. The average number of hours spent in a 24-hour day (between 4 a.m. on the diary day and
4 a.m. on the interview day) doing a specified activity.

	*   Average hours per day, population. The average number of hours per day is computed using all responses
	    from a given sample of the population, including those of respondents who did not do a particular activity
	    on their diary day. These estimates reflect how many persons engaged in an activity and the amount of time
	    they spent doing it.

	*   Average hours per day, persons who did the activity. The average number of hours per day is computed using
	    only responses from those who engaged in a particular activity on their diary day.

   Diary day. The diary day is the day about which the respondent reports. For example, the diary day of a respondent
interviewed on Tuesday is Monday.

   Earnings

	*   Usual weekly earnings. Estimates represent the earnings of full-time wage and salary workers with one job
	    only (both incorporated and unincorporated self-employed are excluded), before taxes and other deductions.
	    They include any overtime pay, commissions, or tips usually received. Usual weekly earnings are only
	    updated in ATUS for about one-third of employed respondents--if the respondent changed jobs or employment
	    status between the CPS and ATUS interviews or if the CPS weekly earnings value was imputed. This means that
	    the earnings information could be out of date because the CPS interview was done 2 to 5 months prior to the
	    ATUS interview. Respondents are asked to identify the easiest way for them to report earnings (hourly, weekly,
	    biweekly, twice monthly, annually, or other) and how much they usually earn in the reported time period.
	    Earnings reported on a basis other than weekly are converted to a weekly equivalent. The term "usual" is as
	    perceived by the respondent. If the respondent asks for a definition of usual, interviewers are instructed
	    to define the term as more than half the weeks worked during the past 4 or 5 months.

	*   Weekly earnings ranges. The ranges used represent approximately 25 percent of full-time wage and salary workers
	    (both incorporated and unincorporated self-employed are excluded) who held only one job. For example, 25 percent
	    of full-time wage and salary workers with one job only had weekly earnings of $560 or less in 2015. These dollar
	    values vary from year to year.

   Employment status

	*   Employed. All persons who:

	    1) At any time during the 7 days prior to the interview did any work at all as paid employees, or worked in their
	    own business or profession or on their own farm; or 

	    2) Were not working during the 7 days prior to the interview but had jobs or businesses from which they were
	    temporarily absent because of illness, bad weather, vacation, childcare problems, labor-management disputes,
	    maternity or paternity leave, job training, or other family or personal reasons, whether or not they were paid
	    for the time off or were seeking other jobs; or

	    3) Usually worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in a family-operated enterprise.

	*   Employed full time. Full-time workers are those who usually worked 35 or more hours per week at all jobs combined.

	*   Employed part time. Part-time workers are those who usually worked fewer than 35 hours per week at all jobs combined.

	*   Not employed. Persons are not employed if they do not meet the conditions for employment. People who are not employed
	    include those classified as unemployed as well as those classified as not in the labor force (using CPS definitions).

   The numbers of employed and not employed persons in this release do not correspond to published totals from the CPS for several
reasons. First, the reference population for the ATUS is age 15 years and over, whereas it is age 16 years and over for the CPS.
Second, ATUS data are collected continuously, the employment reference period being the 7 days prior to the interview. By contrast,
CPS data are usually collected during the week including the 19th of the month and generally refer to employment during the week
containing the 12th of the month. Finally, the CPS accepts answers from household members about other household members whereas
such proxy responses are not allowed in the ATUS. One consequence of the difference in proxy reporting is that a significantly
higher proportion of teenagers report employment in the ATUS than in the CPS. While the information on employment from the ATUS
is useful for assessing work in the context of other daily activities, the employment data are not intended for analysis of
current employment trends. Compared with the CPS and other estimates of employment, the ATUS estimates are based on a much smaller
sample and are only available with a substantial lag since ATUS data and estimates are published during the year following data
collection.

   Household children. Household children are children under age 18 residing in the household of the ATUS respondent. The children
may be related to the respondent (such as his or her own children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, or brothers or sisters) or not
related (such as foster children or children of roommates or boarders).

   Primary activity. A primary activity is the main activity a respondent was doing at a specified time. With the exception of
secondary childcare in table 10, the estimates presented in this release reflect time spent in primary activities only.

   Secondary activities. A secondary (or simultaneous) activity is an activity done at the same time as a primary activity. With
the exception of the care of children under age 13, information on secondary activities is not systematically collected in the ATUS.

   Secondary childcare. Secondary childcare is care for children under age 13 that is done while doing an activity other than primary
childcare, such as cooking dinner. Secondary childcare estimates are derived by summing the durations of activities during which
respondents had at least one child under age 13 in their care while doing other things. The time individuals spend providing
secondary childcare is further restricted to the time between when the first household child under age 13 woke up and when the
last household child under age 13 went to bed. It is also restricted to times the respondent was awake. If respondents report
providing both primary and secondary care at the same time, the time is attributed to primary care only.

   Weekday, weekend, and holiday estimates. Estimates for weekdays are an average of reports about Monday through Friday. Estimates
for weekend days and holidays are an average of reports about Saturdays, Sundays, and the following holidays:  New Yearís Day,
Easter, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Data were not collected about New Yearís
Day in 2012, and Christmas Day in 2011 and 2014.

Major activity category definitions
   The following definitions describe the activity categories shown in this report. All major time-use categories in this release
include related travel time and waiting time. For example, time spent "driving to the stadium" and time spent "waiting to get into
the stadium to play ball" are included in Leisure and sports. 

   Personal care activities. Personal care activities include sleeping, grooming (such as bathing or dressing), health-related
self-care, and personal or private activities. Receiving unpaid personal care from others (for example, "my sister put polish
on my nails") also is captured in this category. In general, respondents are not asked who they were with or where they were for
personal care activities, as such information can be sensitive.

   Eating and drinking. All time spent eating or drinking (except eating and drinking done as part of a work or volunteer activity),
whether alone, with others, at home, at a place of purchase, or somewhere else, is classified here.

   Household activities. Household activities are activities done by people to maintain their households. These include housework;
cooking; lawn and garden care; pet care; vehicle maintenance and repair; home maintenance, repair, decoration, and renovation; and
household management and organizational activities (such as filling out paperwork or planning a party). Food preparation, whether
or not reported as done specifically for another household member, is always classified as a household activity unless it was done
as a volunteer, work, or income-generating activity. For example, "making breakfast for my son" is coded as a household activity,
not as childcare.

   Purchasing goods and services. This category includes time spent purchasing consumer goods, professional and personal care services,
household services, and government services. Consumer purchases include most purchases and rentals of consumer goods, regardless of the
mode or place of purchase or rental (in person, via telephone, over the Internet, at home, or in a store). Gasoline, grocery, other
food purchases, and all other shopping are further broken out in subcategories.
   Time spent obtaining, receiving, and purchasing professional and personal care services provided by someone else also is classified
in this category. Professional services include childcare, financial services and banking, legal services, medical and adult care
services, real estate services, and veterinary services. Personal care services include day spas, hair salons and barbershops, nail
salons, and tanning salons. Activities classified here include time spent paying, meeting with, or talking to service providers, as
well as time spent receiving the service or waiting to receive the service.
   Time spent arranging for and purchasing household services provided by someone else also is classified here. Household services
include housecleaning; cooking; lawn care and landscaping; pet care; tailoring, laundering, and dry cleaning; vehicle maintenance
and repairs; and home repairs, maintenance, and construction.
   This category also captures the time spent obtaining government services--such as applying for food stamps--and purchasing government-
required licenses or paying fines or fees.

   Caring for and helping household members. Time spent doing activities to care for or help any child (under age 18) or adult in the
household, regardless of relationship to the respondent or the physical or mental health status of the person being helped, is classified
here. Caring for and helping activities for household children and adults are coded separately in subcategories.
   Primary childcare activities include time spent providing physical care; playing with children; reading with children; assistance with
homework; attending children's events; taking care of children's health needs; and dropping off, picking up, and waiting for children.
Passive childcare done as a primary activity (such as "keeping an eye on my son while he swam in the pool") also is included. A child's
presence during the activity is not enough in itself to classify the activity as childcare. For example, "watching television with my 
child" is coded as a leisure activity, not as childcare.
   Secondary childcare occurs when persons have a child under age 13 ?in their care" while doing activities other than primary childcare.
For a complete definition, see the Concepts and definitions section of this Technical Note.
   Caring for and helping household members also includes a range of activities done to benefit adult members of households, such as
providing physical and medical care or obtaining medical services. Doing something as a favor for or helping another household adult
does not automatically result in classification as a helping activity. For example, a report of "helping my spouse cook dinner" is 
considered a household activity (food preparation), not a helping activity, because cooking dinner benefits the household as a whole.
By contrast, doing paperwork for another person usually benefits the individual, so a report of "filling out an insurance application
for my spouse" is considered a helping activity.

   Caring for and helping nonhousehold members. This category includes time spent in activities done to care for or help others--both
children (under age 18) and adults--who do not live in the household. When done for or through an organization, time spent helping
nonhousehold members is classified as volunteering, rather than as helping nonhousehold members. Care of nonhousehold children,
even when done as a favor or helping activity for another adult, is always classified as caring for and helping nonhousehold children,
not as helping another adult.

   Working and work-related activities. This category includes time spent working, doing activities as part of one's job, engaging in
income-generating activities not as part of one's job, and job search activities. "Working" includes hours spent doing the specific
tasks required of one's main or other job, regardless of location or time of day. "Work-related activities" include activities that
are not obviously work but are done as part of one's job, such as having a business lunch and playing golf with clients. "Other
income-generating activities" are those done "on the side" or under informal arrangement and are not part of a regular job. Such
activities might include selling homemade crafts, babysitting, maintaining a rental property, or having a yard sale. These activities
are those for which people are paid or will be paid. 
   Travel time related to working and work-related activities includes time spent traveling to and from work, as well as time spent
traveling for work-related, income-generating, and job search activities.

   Educational activities. Time spent taking classes for a degree or for personal interest (including taking Internet or other distance-
learning courses), time spent doing research and homework, and time spent taking care of administrative tasks related to education (such
as registering for classes or obtaining a school ID) are included in this category. For high school students, before- and after-school
extracurricular activities (except sports) also are classified as educational activities. Educational activities do not include time
spent for classes or training received as part of a job. Time spent helping others with their education-related activities is classified
as an activity involving caring for and helping others.

   Organizational, civic, and religious activities. This category captures time spent volunteering for or through an organization,
performing civic obligations, and participating in religious and spiritual activities. Civic obligations include government-required
duties, such as serving jury duty or appearing in court, and activities that assist or influence government processes, such as voting
or attending town hall meetings. Religious activities include those normally associated with membership in or identification with
specific religions or denominations, such as attending religious services; participating in choirs, youth groups, orchestras, or
unpaid teaching (unless identified as volunteer activities); and engaging in personal religious practices, such as praying.

   Leisure and sports. The leisure and sports category includes time spent in sports, exercise, and recreation; socializing and
communicating; and other leisure activities. Sports, exercise, and recreation activities include participating in--as well as
attending or watching--sports, exercise, and recreational activities. Recreational activities include yard games like croquet
or horseshoes, as well as activities like billiards and dancing. Socializing and communicating includes face-to-face social 
communication and hosting or attending social functions. Leisure activities include watching television; reading; relaxing or
thinking; playing computer, board, or card games; using a computer or the Internet for personal interest; playing or listening
to music; and other activities, such as attending arts, cultural, and entertainment events.

   Telephone calls, mail, and e-mail. This category captures time spent in telephone communication and household or personal mail
or e-mail. This category also includes texting and Internet voice and video calling. Telephone and Internet purchases are
classified in Purchasing goods and services. Telephone calls, mail, or e-mail identified as related to work or volunteering are
classified as work or volunteering.

   Other activities, not elsewhere classified. This residual category includes security procedures related to traveling, traveling
not associated with a specific activity category, ambiguous activities that could not be coded, and missing activities. Missing
activities result when respondents did not remember what they did for a period of time, or when they considered an activity too
private or personal to report. 

Processing and estimation
   After ATUS data are collected, they go through an editing and imputation procedure. Responses to CPS questions that are re-asked
in the ATUS go through the regular CPS edit and imputation procedures. Some item nonresponses for questions unique to the ATUS (such
as where an activity took place or how much time was spent doing secondary childcare) also are imputed. Missing activities and missing
values for who was present during an activity are never imputed.
   ATUS records are weighted quarterly to reduce bias in the estimates due to differences in sampling and response rates across
subpopulations and days of the week. Specifically, the data are weighted to ensure the following:

	*   Weekdays represent about 5/7 of the weighted data, and weekend days represent about 2/7 of the weighted data for the
	    population as a whole. The actual proportions depend on the number of weekdays and weekend days in a given quarter.

	*   The sum of the weights is equal to the number of person-days in the quarter for the population as a whole and for
	    selected subpopulations.

Reliability of the estimates
   Statistics based on the ATUS are subject to both sampling and nonsampling error. When a sample, rather than the entire population,
is surveyed, estimates differ from the true population values they represent. The component of this difference that occurs because
samples differ by chance is known as sampling error, and its variability is measured by the standard error of the estimate.
   Sample estimates from a given survey design are unbiased when an average of the estimates from all possible samples would yield,
hypothetically, the true population value. In this case, the sample estimate and its standard error can be used to construct
approximate confidence intervals, or ranges of values that include the true population value with known probabilities. If the
process of selecting a sample from the population were repeated many times, an estimate made from each sample, and a suitable
estimate of its standard error calculated for each sample, then approximately 90 percent of the intervals from 1.645 standard
errors below the estimate to 1.645 standard errors above the estimate would include the true population value. BLS analyses are
generally conducted at the 90-percent level of confidence.
   The ATUS data also are affected by nonsampling error, which is the average difference between population and sample values for
samples generated by a given process. Nonsampling error can occur for many reasons, including failure to sample a segment of
the population, inability to obtain information for all persons in the sample, inability or unwillingness of respondents to
provide correct information, and errors made in the collection or processing of the data. Errors also could occur if nonresponse
is correlated with time use.

Publication requirements
   Estimates of average hours per day and participation rates are not published unless there are a minimum number of respondents
representing the given population. Additional publication criteria are applied that include the number of respondents who reported
doing a specified activity and the standard error or coefficient of variation for the estimate. Estimates that are considered "close
to zero" or that round to 0.00, are published as approximately zero or "~0." For a detailed description of the statistical reliability
criteria necessary for publication, please contact ATUS staff at ATUSinfo@bls.gov.



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Last Modified Date: June 24, 2016