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Minding the Children: Understanding How Recall and Conceptual Interpretations Influence Responses to a Time‐Use Summary Question

Lisa K. Schwartz


The American Time Use Survey (ATUS) measures how people spend their time, what they spend their time doing, and with whom they spend it. The interview consists of several parts including an update of key CPS variables, a 24-hour time diary, and several summary questions to clarify and/or augment diary reports. This paper focuses on the development of the ATUS secondary child care questions and the accuracy of the secondary child care measure. Two cognitive studies were conducted. Study One's objective was to clarify the concepts of secondary child care and determine the optimal child care question wording. Study Two's objective was to determine the extent to which recall and conceptual issues influenced responses to a secondary childcare summary question. Based on the results of both cognitive tests, the current wording of the summary question was deemed effective and recommended for implementation in ATUS. The authors also recommend that after the first year of production, BLS may wish to examine the relationship between the answer to "who was in the room with you?/who accompanied you?" and estimates of secondary childcare (times the respondent reported having a child under 13 "in [his/her] care."