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August 1999, Vol. 122, No. 8
Measuring how people spend their time: a time-use survey design
Linda L. Stinson
Time-use studies typically have a single focus: to study the frequency and duration of human activities. For example, time-use surveys may ask respondents to report everything they did during a 24-hour period along with some indication of the starting and stopping times of those actions. This chronological reporting procedure avoids many pitfalls that other survey estimation procedures encounter and is less subject to distortion due to "social desirability bias." But there are many methodological considerations to take into account when designing a time-use survey. Decisions concerning reporting procedures and mode of data collection may influence data quality. Likewise, the choice of follow-up probes and the treatment of simultaneous activities can determine the amount of information available for accurate and reliable coding of activities.
This article describes the methodological decisions that the BLS time-use working group faced when designing a possible time-use survey.1 It also presents the methodological choices that the group made and provides the rationale for those selections.
This excerpt is from an article published in the August 1999 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 In any survey design process, there are always a series of methodological decisions to be made. As the BLS working group advanced into the design process, it made specific methodological decisions along the way. These decisions were made as part of the design process only.
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