Related BLS programs | Related articles
June 2011, Vol. 134, No. 6
The overestimated workweek revisited
John P. Robinson, Steven Martin, Ignace Glorieux, and Joeri Minnen
John P. Robinson is a professor of sociology and Steven Martin is a former assistant professor of sociology, both at the University of Maryland, College Park. Ignace Glorieux is a professor of sociology and Joeri Minnen is a Ph.D. student, both at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (the Free University of Brussels) in Belgium. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) and a Belgian national survey using weekly diaries indicate that, when asked to estimate their number of work hours, employed respondents tend to overestimate their work hours by 5–10 percent in relation to the work hours they report in their time diaries; most of the overestimation is accounted for by respondents who estimate longer work hours
Until recently, most data about the public's time use came from survey questions that ask respondents to estimate how much time they spend or spent on an activity during a particular period, usually a week or day (often "last week" or "yesterday"); an example is "How many hours a week (day) do you spend working (watching television, doing house cleaning, etc.)?" There is a rich body of historical U.S. data that rely solely on this method, which can be called "the time-estimate approach"; in this article, questions asked with this approach generally are referred to as "time-estimate questions" or simply "estimate questions." As examples of the time-estimate approach, the Current Population Survey (CPS) is used to calculate data on time spent working, the Independent Sector (a coalition of charities, corporate giving foundations, and foundations) and other organizations estimate time spent doing volunteer work, the Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Transportation estimate time spent traveling, and the Roper Organization and the General Social Survey are sources of data on time spent watching television. In Middletown Families, Theodore Caplow and colleagues used the responses to a number of estimate questions to support their arguments about changes in daily life in the United States, and in Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam used similar data to support his arguments about declining social capital in the Nation. 1
Download full article in PDF
1 Theodore Caplow, Bruce A. Chadwick, Howard M. Bahr, and Reuben Hill, Middletown Families: Fifty Years of Change and Continuity (Minneapolis, MN, University of Minnesota Press, 1982); and Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (New York, Simon & Schuster, Ltd., 2001).
American Time Use Survey
Current Population Survey
What can time-use data tell us about hours of work?—Dec. 2004.
Overestimated workweek, The? What time diary measures suggest.—Aug. 1994.
Measuring time at work: are self-reports accurate?—Dec. 1998.
Within Monthly Labor Review Online:
Welcome | Current Issue | Index | Subscribe | Archives
Exit Monthly Labor Review Online:
BLS Home | Publications & Research Papers