The way Americans spend their time tends to drive their expending behavior. Either they may spend time working or spend time having fun. The latest release of the American Use Time Survey 2014 (ATUS) run by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) started to give more consistent data about changes on how Americans make use of their time. In its latest version which pertain 2014 data, the ATUS shows that Working and Work-Related are among the activities that had gone down since the Great Recession started. Nonetheless and although average of working hours levels are still below pre-Great Recession average, the Survey shows that those activities are rebounding at a good pace, which is consistent with data on labor market.
How do Americans make use of their time?
ATUS data reveal that Leisure and Sport Activities have gone up, as well as Personal Care and Other Activities. The first year in which the BLS collected data for that survey, Americans spent in average 5.11 hours per day in Leisure and Sports related activities. After eleven years and one economic recession, Americans spend in average 5.30 hours per day doing the same things. Personal Care related activities where at an average of 9.34 hours per day before the Great Recession. However, since the beginning of the Great Recession, Americans spend in average almost half an hour more.
Time dedicated to Purchasing Goods and Services has also declined slightly. In average, Americans spend 44 minutes hours per day doing shopping, whereas in 2003 they spent roughly 48 minutes per day.
Interpreting these data happens to be a double edge sword.
Given that Average and Means are measures that get highly affected by outliers, analysts and readers must have caution while making inferences about these statistics. Furthermore, the perspective from where analysts operate tends to yield different conclusions. The first set of conclusions can be derived from the perspective of those that aim at interpreting the population as made up of Leisure-maximizing agents, whereas the second set of conclusion can be derived from the perspective of those who attempt to interpret the society as comprising of Income-maximizing agents. Therefore, some analysts may infer from these data that more time spent in Leisure activities might have a positive impact in quality life, personal health, and happiness. On the other hand, analysts could also conclude that Income could have been affected negatively and that population has become lazier.
Generalizing will always be risky:
As the reader may have notice, these data work out even for bolstering political and ideological statements. In spite of its ambiguity, ATUS data can be used for identifying major economic trends, and at the same time for depicting a bigger picture of the American culture, habits and, indeed, about the “American life”. Generalizing will always be risky, but when analysts clearly identify the boundaries of the data, and readers understand the limits of the sources, honest conclusion can be drawn from these rather obscure data.