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Current Projects

The Time Use Lab is currently focused on three main projects:

Innovations in Time Use Research Tools
In the fall of 2013, the Time Use Lab began recruiting participants for a small pilot study to learn about the possible benefits of using smartphones to collect time use data. Traditionally, handwritten diaries have served as the main medium for recording time use data, but this method is burdensome and often inexact with regards to the place where an activity occurred. Smartphones may offer a more streamlined way to record time use data, and GPS technology could help researchers understand the positive and negative effects of the physical environment where an activity takes place. Participants in the pilot study will represent a broad cross-section of the population in order to find out whether there are unique considerations among different demographic groups.

Immigration, Citizenship, and Time Use
The Time Use Lab also studies patterns of time use among immigrants in the Baltimore and Washington, DC area. The study will combine qualitative and quantitative methods in order to learn how patterns of time use reflect changing family and social dynamics as immigrants adapt to life in their new communities. Dr. Sayer, the director of the Time Use Lab, hypothesizes that the results will show interesting differences in time use depending on immigrants’ countries of origin, and on their varying educational and socioeconomic status in the United States.

Time Use across the Life Course
The third project of the Time Use Lab focuses on how patterns of time use change over time among children and adolescents. According to child development literature, some types of time use are more beneficial to children than others. The goal of the project is to find out how children’s time is divided between beneficial or enriching activities like schoolwork or sports and undirected activities such as “hanging out” or watching TV. Time use data will help Sayer and her colleagues learn more about the kinds of activities that children and adolescents engage in, whether they keep the same patterns over time, and how children’s time use affects their transition to adulthood. Researchers will also look at whether and how children’s time use differs according to gender and socioeconomic status.

While time use data can reveal a great deal about what people are doing, it cannot explain why. For example, if a child spends a large amount of time watching television, it might be tempting to assume that this pattern reflects apathy on the part of the parents. But in neighborhoods with high crime rates, parents may be using TV as a way to keep their children indoors in a safe environment. Time use data only becomes meaningful when understood within its full social context.

Our Published Research on Time Use

Housework: Who Did, Does, or Will Do It and How Much Does it Matter?
Bianchi, Suzanne M., Liana C. Sayer, Melissa A. Milkie, and John P. Robinson

Abstract: “Is Anyone Doing the Housework?” (Bianchi et al. 2000) was motivated, like much of the research on housework, by a desire to better understand gender inequality and social change in the work and family arena in the United States. During the 1990s, Arlie Hochschild’s (1989) influential book, The Second Shift, provided the dominant assessment of the gender division of labor in the home (Konigsberg 2011): men were unwilling to share the burden of work in the home and thus employed women came home to a “second shift” of housework and childcare, increasing gender inequality. Her rich qualitative study was based on a small sample of unknown generalizability, however (Milkie, Raley, & Bianchi 2009).

Americans Less Rushed But No Happier: 1965-2010 Trends in Subjective Time and Happiness
John P. Robinson

Abstract: A general societal consensus seems to have emerged that the pace of daily life, at least in the US and other Western countries, is speeding up. However, there seems little empirical evidence to document its presence, let alone its increase. The present article reviews results from two questions on subjective-time pressure that have been asked periodically in US national probability surveys since 1965, and which were repeated in separate 2009 and 2010 surveys. Counter to the popular societal consensus on an increasingly time-pressured society noted above, respondent reports of feelings of being “always rushed” declined by 6–9 points from those reported in 2004. The decline was found both among employed and unemployed respondents, indicating it was not simply a function of higher unemployment. At the same time, feelings of being “very happy” also declined over this period, despite the finding that time-pressured people have consistently reported being less happy. Moreover, more time-pressured people continued to report being less happy in these 2009–2010 surveys, even after controls for marital status, employment and other important predictors of happiness. Somewhat higher correlations with happiness were found for a related subjective-time question on having excess time on one’s hands.

Racial-Ethnic Differences in US Married Women's and Men's Housework
Liana C. Sayer, Leigh Fine

Abstract: Married women continue to spend more time doing housework than men and economic resources influence women’s housework more strongly than men’s. To explain this, gender theorists point to how gender figures into identities, family interactions, and societal norms and opportunity structures. The extent of this configuration varies culturally and, in the United States, by race-ethnicity because of how race-ethnicity conditions access to resources and influences gender relations within marriages. Housework levels and gender differences may be lower in Black married couples compared to other couples because of Black women’s higher historical levels of employment and consequently long-standing need to balance work and family responsibilities. Race-ethnicity also likely conditions the symbolic meaning and thus association of economic resources and housework. We use pooled time diary data from the 2003 to 2007 American Time Use Study from 26,795 married women and men to investigate how and why race-ethnicity influences housework. Our results indicate Hispanic and Asian women do more cooking and cleaning compared with White and Black women and the inverse relationship between women’s earnings and housework is steeper for Hispanic women compared with other women. We find no evidence that married Black men devote more time to housework than White men, either core or occasional, unlike earlier studies.

How Social Processes Distort Measurement: The Impact of Survey Nonresponse on Estimates of Volunteer Work in the United States
Katharine G. Abraham, Sara Helms, Stanley Presser

Abstract: The authors argue that both the large variability in survey estimates of volunteering and the fact that survey estimates do not show the secular decline common to other social capital measures are caused by the greater propensity of those who do volunteer work to respond to surveys. Analyses of the American Time Use Survey (ATUS)--the sample for which is drawn from the Current Population Survey (CPS)--together with the CPS volunteering supplement show that CPS respondents who become ATUS respondents report much more volunteering in the CPS than those who become ATUS nonrespondents. This difference is replicated within subgroups. Consequently, conventional adjustments for nonresponse cannot correct the bias. Although nonresponse leads to estimates of volunteer activity that are too high, it generally does not affect inferences about the characteristics of volunteers. 

Racial-Ethnic Differences in Children's Activity Patterns: Class, Capitol, and Cultural Explanations 
Sandra Hofferth, Ui Jeong Moon

Abstract:  Extracurricular activity participation is widely believed to contribute to academic and social achievement, yet many children spend their out-of-school time in unstructured activities such as watching television. Using detailed time diary data from three waves of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics Child Development Supplement, according to their intensity of participation in nine activities this study identified five latent classes of children – sports, electronic games, television, television and visiting, and academic – and then explored predictors of individual patterns across ethnic minority groups. Parental social class and social capital explained differences in activity patterns between Latino and White children, but did not explain differences between African American and White children. Cultural values of working hard, being popular, and thinking for oneself were associated with activity choices within racial-ethnic subgroups, particularly African Americans and Latinos.

Parental Expectations and Childhood Activities in Immigrant Transitions to Adulthood
Sandra Hofferth, Ui Jeong Moon

Abstract: The transition to adulthood of children of immigrants may differ from peers for socioeconomic (SES) and cultural reasons. The present study uses the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to compare a sample of contemporary immigrant and nonimmigrant adolescents completing high school in 2005-11 as they move into the young adult years. Participation in academic activities and higher achievement levels in secondary school as well as higher SES family background and greater parental educational expectations are associated with later successes. In spite of their initial disadvantages, results show that children of immigrants are integrated into American society, graduating high school, enrolling in college, and being gainfully occupied in work or in school, though they are also less likely to be self-sufficient.

Tiger Mothers and Child Achievement: Do Activity Patterns explain the Achievement of Children of Immigrants 
Sandra Hofferth, Ui Jeong Moon

Abstract: This paper compares the achievement of school-aged children of immigrant parents with that of children of native parents using data from the 1997 and 2003 Panel Study of Income Dynamics Child Development Supplement. Generational differences in achievement are primarily socioeconomic differences; controlling for socioeconomic status eliminates the differences across generations in problem-solving and reading. In spite of their greater socioeconomic disadvantage, children of immigrant parents (first or second generation) achieve at levels at least equal to those of children of native parents. In the case of vocabulary, they surpass the achievement of their third generation peers. Children of immigrants spend more time studying and watching television and less time playing video games and sports; these activities mediate some of the effect of generation. Immigrant values and beliefs remain important sources of generational achievement differences even after socioeconomic status is controlled.
Validation of a Diary Measure of Children's Physical Activities 
Sandra Hofferth, Gregory Welk, Marganita Treuth, Suzanne Randolph, Sally Curtin, Richard Valliant
Abstract: This study compares levels of physical activity of 9-14-year-old children from a self-reported time diary with those measured using an accelerometer. Children (N=92) wore an accelerometer for one weekend day and completed a 24-hour time diary for that day. The time children spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity from time diaries was moderately highly correlated with the measured results. Self-reported and objective measures of intensity were correlated, but the correlation varied substantially by activity and characteristics of the family. This study provides empirical evidence to support the validity of time-diary estimates when accelerometer data are not available.
Abstract: This paper addresses the association of biological fathers' residence to their involvement and to mothers' involvement with their adolescent children, and the role of parental relationship quality in this association. It uses as its sample 2,161 adolescent children of young women from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Children living with their biological fathers report greater father involvement than children whose fathers are nonresidential, but this relationship is fully mediated by the quality of the relationship between the two parents. In addition, biological fathers' nonresidence has a direct positive contextual effect on maternal involvement, but has a stronger indirect negative effect via parental relationship quality. Failing to get along with one's partner has direct associations with both father and mother involvement, as well as mediates the linkage between fathers' nonresidence and the involvement of both parents.
The "Hurried" Child: Myth vs. Reality 
Sandra Hofferth, David A. Kinney, Janet S. Dunn
Abstract: Children's lives are increasingly structured with extracurricular activities. This research addressed three questions: (1) how active are American children; (2) are there differences by social class in extent of participation in these activities, either within or across communities; and (3) are children over-scheduled to the extent that they experience stress symptoms? Data came from a nationally representative survey of children and their families and a qualitative study in two communities in the American Midwest. Only one-quarter of children were "hurried," half were focused on a single activity or balanced, and 15 percent had no activities. Children of mothers with more education and higher family incomes were busier. However, higher activity levels were not associated with greater stress symptoms. Instead, children who were uninvolved were the most withdrawn, socially immature, and had the lowest self-esteem. Children who were focused or balanced in their activities had the lowest levels of stress and highest self-esteem.
Abstract: This study provides a national picture of the time American 6-12 year olds spent playing video games, using the computer, and watching television in 1997 and 2003 and associations of early use with their achievement and behavior as adolescents. Computer use does not crowd out positive learning-related activities, whereas both television viewing and video game playing do. The use of the computer in middle childhood is positively associated with achievement for low to moderate income White children and for Black children. High income children are more at risk of becoming socially isolated and aggressive as their computer time rises. Video game use is not associated with greater problem behavior but has protective effects.
Abstract: This paper examines how child support, frequency of contact with children, and the relationship between nonresidential parents influence early adolescent reports of the involvement of fathers and mothers in their life. Data come from the Young Adult Study of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) that has followed the children of NLSY mothers from birth into their twenties. Results show that increases in child support and in contact with the child after separation are linked to a better coparental relationship at ages 11/12. This better relationship between parents is, in turn, associated with greater involvement of both mothers and non-residential fathers with their children. Implications for policies to increase paternal involvement with children are discussed.
Abstract: This study tested a model hypothesizing mothers' level of involvement as well as marital conflict, mothers' work hours, and father's status as biological or step father as influences on coresident father involvement. The analysis also tested hypotheses about mother involvement as a potential mediator of the effects of marital conflict and maternal work hours on father involvement, and hypotheses about factors influencing mother involvement. Primary data were provided by children aged 10-14 from the NLSY79 who resided with their biological or step father and with their mother. A composite involvement measure including engagement in positive activities, closeness and responsiveness, and monitoring and decision-making formed a single latent factor for fathers as well as mothers. As hypothesized, father involvement was predicted by mother involvement, and the reciprocal influence was not significant. Father involvement was associated with low marital conflict and being a biological.  
Abstract: The present study found a small decline in preadolescent and early adolescent children's discretionary time between 1997 and 2002, primarily resulting from continued increases in maternal employment outside the home and increased time in school and child care. Studying and reading increased over the period, whereas participation in sports declined, suggesting that the increased emphasis on academics at the school level has altered children's behavior at home as well. Increased participation in religious and youth activities and declines in outdoor activities may reflect changes in parental values and concerns. The results suggest continuation of the upward trend in reading and studying from the 1980s and early 1990s, but increased religious attendance and youth group participation rather than increased participation in sports characterized this recent period.

Our Working Papers on Time Use

Gender Time Use and Aging (forthcoming)
Liana Sayer, Vicki Freedman, and Suzanne M. Bianchi

Abstract: This chapter provides an overview of gender differences in time use at older ages. We begin with a brief overview of the measurement of time use among older adults. Next, we compare gender differences in daily time allocated to paid work, care work, and leisure between adults 55 and older and those 25-54, emphasizing how gender differences change with age. We then examine social aspects of time use in later life, including how older men and women differ in their time spent alone. Last, we examine caregiving and how its influence on time use and wellbeing varies by gender. We conclude with a discussion of needed directions in research on gender, aging, and time use.

Trends in Women’s and Men’s Time Use, 1965-2012: Back to the Future? (forthcoming)
Liana C. Sayer

Women’s and men’s time use is more similar today than in the 1960s, when specialization in adult roles was at its peak, but convergence remains stubbornly out of sight. This paper updates earlier trend studies of time use and finds recent data confirm the most consistent findings from earlier analyses. The greater similarity of women’s and men’s time use today is due much more to change among women than among men. Further, despite declines in housework, the increase in women’s child care time and paid work time has resulted in a gender gap in leisure time. New findings from this analysis reveal the gender gap in leisure is accounted for by men’s higher levels of television time.

How Extensive is the "Second Shift"? A Study of 5 Countries
Sara Raley, Liana Sayer, and Melissa Milkie

Abstract: A relatively small proportion of U.S. married mothers, about 15 percent, fit the profile of "second shift" mothers, in which both they and their partners work fulltime and have one or more preschoolers. This group does about 7 more hours per week of total work (paid plus unpaid) than their partners and feels disproportionately rushed and stressed. Cross-national variation in work/family policies, working time regulations, and gender norms should work to amplify second shift time inequalities in some countries but mitigate them in others. In this paper, using harmonized time diary data from the Multinational Time Diary Study (see http://www.timeuse.org/files/cckpub/858/mtus-user-guide-r6-july-2013.pdf), we examine five countries in a comparative analysis of the second shift, including the percent of the mother population in this category and the magnitude of women’s overwork compared with similarly situated men. We limit our analysis to countries that represent specific “gender logics” and for which MTUS has harmonized publicly available data in the 2000s: France Netherlands, Spain, the UK, and the US. Consistent with Hochschild’s findings, mothers in fulltime dual-earner couples with young children have higher workloads than similarly situated fathers in every context except the Netherlands (where fathers have larger workloads). The Netherlands is also distinct in that a very low percentage of parents with young children are in the fulltime employed dual-earner family type (less than 15%) whereas about 35% of families with young children in the U.S., Spain and France, are in such families. Finally, the overall size of the workloads among fulltime employed dual-earner parents with young children appears to be largest in Spain and smallest in France.


Who Experiences Leisure Deficits? Mothers' Martial Status and Leisure Time
Emily Passias, Liana C. Sayer, and Joanna R. Pepin

We use the 2003-2012 American Time Use Survey to examine how mothers’ leisure varies by marital status. We find that never-married mothers have more total leisure time than married mothers, but the quality of leisure is poorer. The majority of never married mothers’ leisure time is passive and socially isolated—activities with few social, health, or cognitive benefits. We also find that race-ethnicity moderates the effect of relationship status on time spent in social and active leisure. Unpartnered and black mothers spend the most time in socially isolated leisure, such as time spent alone watching television. Our results strongly suggest that types of leisure differentiate mothers’ experience of time in ways related to other dimensions of inequality, such as economic, health, and social capital disparities.

Marital Status and Mothers’ Time Use: Childcare, Housework, Leisure, and Sleep
Joanna R. Pepin, Liana C. Sayer, and Lynne M. Casper

Assumptions that single mothers are “time-poor” compared with married mothers are ubiquitous, but variation in mothers’ time use is less studied than differences between mothers and fathers. We use the 2003-2012 American Time Use Surveys (ATUS) to examine marital status variation in mothers’ time spent in housework, childcare, leisure, and sleep. We find no difference in time spent on childcare between mothers, suggesting that behavioral propensities to engage in childcare are similar for all mothers; children’s needs are immutable. Married mothers do more housework and spend less time sleeping than all other mothers. Never married and cohabiting mothers have significantly more leisure time than married mothers, although this time is mostly spent watching television. Differences in demographic characteristic explain two-thirds of the variance in sedentary leisure time between married and never married mothers. These results provide no support for the time poverty thesis but offer some support for the doing gender perspective.

Using TraMineR to Sequence Daily Time Diary Data: An Example Using Gendered Differences in Carework and Housework

​Joanna Pepin, Liana C. Sayer, Rose Malinowski Weingartner, University of Maryland and Sarah Flood, University of Minnesota

Presented at O3S: Open Scholarship for the Social Sciences


This research project seeks to serve two purposes, extending knowledge of ways that the timing and order of daily activities are linked with gendered differences in housework and carework, and expanding the tools accessible to time use researchers by demonstrating the use of sequence analysis in a transparent and replicable way. The substantive research project is an ongoing effort, presented here as a replicable example of sequence analysis of time-diary data. The source data are accessible from ATUS-X, a project that works to make data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) more easily accessible to researchers by allowing users to create and download ATUS data files specific to their needs.



The R and Stata code to replicate and build on this project is accessible at GitHub (link coming soon).


TraMineR is an R package designed to visualize and analyze sequences of states across the life course. 

O3S Conference

SocArXiv hosts the inaugural O3S: Open Scholarship for the Social Sciences symposium
O3S will (a) highlight research that uses the tools and methods of open scholarship; (b) bring together researchers who work on problems of open access, publishing, and open scholarship; and (c) facilitate exchange of ideas on the development of SocArXiv.
Last modified
04/09/2019 - 2:33 pm