Annual Time Use Survey Reveals Changes in the Way Americans Work
August 15, 2019 by Alexis Babiarz
The results of the 2018 American Time Use Survey are in, and they’re quite interesting. The survey, which has been conducted every year since 2003 by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, seeks to learn how respondents (people age 15 and up) spend their time.
The most recent data about time use in 2018, reveals what could be some gradual but potentially watershed changes in the way Americans work, raise children, and spend their free time. We reviewed the data and pulled the top 10 most intriguing apparent shifts from 2017 to 2018.
Trend One: More people are working weekdays, and fewer are working weekends.
In 2017, 82 percent of people with jobs worked on any given weekday, and 33 percent worked on any given weekend day. In 2018 the percentage of employed people working on an average weekday was up to 89, while the percentage of employed people working on an average weekend day had fallen to 31. In short, those with jobs seem to be doing more of their work during the week and less of it on Saturdays and Sundays. We’re hoping this is the start of a turnaround to an apparent trend bemoaned in 2017 by one Forbes contributor: “Americans have gone from working for the weekend to working on the weekend … “
Trend Two: Fewer multiple-job holders are working weekdays.
The most recent data from ATUS suggests that the vast majority of those who hold more than one job are likely to be working on any given weekday, but the percentage has dropped (from 92 in 2017 to 90 in 2018). Also slightly lower since 2017 is the percentage of multiple-job holders working weekends (56 percent vs. 57 percent the previous year).
Trend Three: Single-job holders remain unlikely to work weekends.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, those with just one job remain relatively unlikely to work weekends at all. In 2018 only 28 percent of single-job holders reported being likely to work on any given weekend day.
Trend Four: More people are working from home, and fewer from the office.
We don’t like to say, “We told you so,” so we’ll let the numbers do it for us: The 2018 ATUS data seem to reflect a national move away from the idea of a single, central office where everybody must convene. Every. Single. Day.
“On days they worked, 82 percent of employed persons did some or all of their work at their workplace and 24 percent did some or all of their work at home,” the survey summary reads. In 2017, those percentages had been 83 and 23, respectively.
Trend Five: Those with advanced degrees are now less likely to work at home.
Although people with advanced degrees are still more likely than those with less formal education to do some of their work from home (42 percent vs. 12 percent in 2018, among those age 25 and older), the percentage has fallen from 2017, when 46 percent of advanced-degree holders in the same age bracket did some of their work at home. The percentage for those with no college education was unchanged in 2018.
Trend Six: On days they work, men are still working more than women, but the gap is narrowing.
In 2018, employed men worked, on average, longer days than employed women (8.2 hours vs. 7.9 hours). However, the 2018 numbers represent a decline in the number of hours men worked (an average of 8.4 hours in 2017). Meanwhile, employed women worked the same average number of daily hours in both years.
Trend Seven: The time spent by each sex caring for children under age 6 is unchanged, but women still do 153 percent more.
Unchanged from 2017 was the average amount of time people with small children spent caring for those children, but the difference between the sexes in the amount of time spent remains substantial. “On an average day, among adults living in households with children under age 6, women spent 1.1 hours providing physical care (such as bathing or feeding a child) to household children,” the 2018 survey summary reads. “By contrast, men spent 26 minutes providing physical care.”
Trend Eight: Older people are spending less time reading each day.
According to the survey results, people age 75 and older are spending less time each day reading. In 2017, this population “averaged 51 minutes of reading per day.” In 2018, that number had fallen to 48, a drop of more than 6 percent. The average daily reading time of those age 15 to 44 was unchanged from 2017 to 2018, at a mere 10 minutes or less.
That we are reading less overall is in keeping with other findings of recent years, but disappointing and worrying nonetheless.
“When people don’t read literature, they miss out on a unique reading experience that no other type of writing can match,” Washington Post reporter Christopher Ingraham wrote in 2016. “A number of recent studies have demonstrated that fiction — particularly literary fiction — seems to boost the quality of empathy in the people who read it, their ability to see the world from another person’s eyes.”
Trend Nine: Watching TV remains the top “leisure activity.”
When it comes to ways to unwind, TV is still king. At an average of 2.8 hours a day in both 2017 and 2018, TV watching accounted for more than half of all respondents’ leisure time.
Trend Ten: More men are doing housework, but women are still doing far more.
From 2017 to 2018 there was a 1-percent increase in men performing housework such as laundry, dishes or other cleaning. However, the percentage of women who did daily housework, 49 percent, was the same in 2017 and 2018. These findings reflect what we’ve been reading.
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