American men have 30 minutes of more leisure time a day and use half of it to watch TV

Sociologist Liana Sayer tracks the leisure time of Americans by gender, finds a half hour gap between men and women (5 hours and 30 minutes versus 4 hours and 59 minutes), and looks at how men spend that extra time:

What are men doing with that extra half hour? Some of it is spent socializing, exercising, and simply relaxing, among other things. But “about half of the gap is from TV,” says Liana Sayer, a sociologist at the University of Maryland and the director of the school’s Time Use Laboratory…

Sayer, in a 2016 paper, called American time use “stubbornly gendered”: On average, women continue to devote more time each day to chores and looking after children than men do. Further, the average American woman spends 28 more minutes a day than the average American man on “personal care”—a time-use category that encompasses activities such as showering, getting dressed, and applying makeup…

Sayer laid out two possible theories. The first: “The idea is that men are able to watch more television, perhaps because they enjoy it, and the reason men are able to exercise greater preference in their time use choices is because they have [more] power than women,” she has written

The second theory has to do with the ranks of men who have become more socially isolated, whether because they’re out of work, less involved in family life, or both. Women, in addition to working more than they used to, tend to have stronger networks of friends and are more likely to raise children as single parents—which together could make women more socially connected than men. Thus, as Sayer has written, “men may devote a greater share and more time to television because this type of leisure does not require social integration.”

Television continues to have an outsized pull on the leisure time of Americans. This could change over time and the options for leisure seem to have exploded in recent decades, but even younger Americans seem drawn to television, just in through different means such as watching on phones or computers. I wonder for how many Americans television is the default leisure activity when they have no other other or limited leisure options.

I’m sure others have explored this but these time use findings would be interesting to connect to what it means to be a man in the United States: you watch a certain amount of television. Does it matter more what men watch (sports, action shows, etc.) or how much they watch? What cultural expectations do they pick up regarding how much television to watch and how exactly is this passed down?

 

 

The state of reading books in America in 2016

Pew Research has recently put out several reports on book reading in America. First, the broad overview:

Yet even as the number of ways people spend their time has expanded, a Pew Research Center survey finds that the share of Americans who have read a book in the last 12 months (73%) has remained largely unchanged since 2012…

Americans read an average (mean) of 12 books per year, while the typical (median) American has read 4 books in the last 12 months.

Second, those who do read still do so in print most of the time:

Readers today can access books in several common digital formats, but print books remain substantially more popular than either e-books or audio books. Roughly two-thirds of Americans (65%) have read a print book in the last year, which is identical to the share of Americans who reported doing so in 2012 (although down slightly from the 71% who reported reading a print book in 2011).

By contrast, 28% of Americans have read an e-book – and 14% have listened to an audio book – in the last year. In addition to being less popular than print books overall, the share of Americans who read e-books or listen to audio books has remained fairly stable in recent years…

Nearly four-in-ten Americans read print books exclusively; just 6% are digital-only book readers.

Third, on why people read:

Among all American adults:

  • 84% ever read to research specific topics of interest (29% do so nearly every day).
  • 82% read to keep up with current events (47% nearly every day).
  • 80% read for pleasure (35% nearly every day).
  • 57% read for work or school (31% do so nearly every day).

Fourth, who isn’t reading:

Several demographic traits correlate with non-book reading, Pew Research Center surveys have found. For instance, adults with a high school degree or less are about three times as likely as college graduates (40% vs. 13%) to report not reading books in any format in the past year. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey shows that these less-educated adults are also the least likely to own smartphones or tablets, two devices that have seen a substantial increase in usage for reading e-books since 2011. (College-educated adults are more likely to own these devices and use them to read e-books.)

Adults with an annual household income of less than $30,000 are about twice as likely as the most affluent adults to be non-book readers (33% vs. 17%). Hispanic adults are also about twice as likely as whites (40% vs. 23%) to report not having read a book in the past 12 months.

Older Americans are a bit more likely than their younger counterparts not to have read a book. Some 29% of adults ages 50 and older have not read a book in the past year, compared with 23% of adults under 50. In addition, men are less likely than women to have read a book, as are adults in rural areas compared with those in urban areas.

Fifth, the book reading trends haven’t changed too much in recent years:

The share of Americans who report not reading any books in the past 12 months is largely unchanged since 2012, but is slightly higher than in 2011, when the Center first began conducting surveys of book-reading habits. That year, 19% of adults reported not reading any books.

While Internet use (with the included possibilities of streaming audio and video) is taking up more and more time in daily life, it may take quite a while for reading books to becoming an activity for a small minority. And how could is disappear completely from certain settings such as schools and colleges?

The biggest time-use diary archive in the world

Numerous scholars are making use of the 850,000+ person days recorded in diaries and held in a UK archive:

Today, these files are part of the biggest collection of time-use diaries in the world, kept by the Centre for Time Use Research at the University of Oxford, UK. The centre’s holdings have been gathered from nearly 30 countries, span more than 50 years and cover some 850,000 person-days in total. They offer the most detailed portrait ever created of when people work, sleep, play and socialize — and of how those patterns have changed over time. “It certainly is unique,” says Ignace Glorieux, a sociologist at the Dutch-speaking Free University of Brussels. “It started quite modest, and now it’s a huge archive.”

The collection is helping to solve a slew of scientific and societal puzzles — not least, a paradox about modern life. There is a widespread perception in Western countries that life today is much busier than it once was, thanks to the unending demands of work, family, chores, smartphones and e-mails. But the diaries tell a different story: “We do not get indicators at all that people are more frantic,” says John Robinson, a sociologist who works with time-use diaries at the University of Maryland, College Park. In fact, when paid and unpaid work are totted up, the average number of hours worked every week has not changed much since the 1980s in most countries of the developed world…

But certain groups have experienced a different trend. According to analyses by Gershuny, Sullivan and other time-use researchers, two demographic groups are, in fact, working harder. One consists of employed, single parents, who put in exceptionally long hours compared to the average; the other comprises well-educated professionals, particularly those who also have small children. People in this latter group find themselves pushed to work hard and under societal pressure to spend quality time with their kids. “The combination of those pressures has meant that there is this group for which time pressure is particularly pertinent,” Sullivan says.

Some researchers are also testing new ways to record people’s activities as they can compare the results to the diaries:

In her preliminary analyses, Harms has found that gadget diaries and paper diaries show the same sequence of events, but that the gadgets reveal details that paper diaries missed. Most researchers in the field agree that the future lies in collecting data through phones and other devices. “Maybe this will bring a new boost to time-use research,” Glorieux says. He anticipates a situation in which reams of diary data — such as location, heart rate, calories burned and even ambient noise — are collected through phones and linked-up gadgets.

Much social science research is focused on particular events or aspects of people’s lives – not just a cross-section of time but also specific information measured in variables that we think might be related to other variables or that we think are worth measuring. In contrast, time-use diaries and other methods can help get at the mundane, everyday activity and interactions that make up a majority of our lives. Much of adult life is spent in necessary activities: making and eating food, resting and sleeping, cleaning, more passive leisure activities, caring for children. We also spend a decent amount of time alone or in our own head. These activities are occasionally punctuated by big events – something exciting happens at work or home, lively social interaction occurs, an important thought is had, etc. – to which we tend to pay more attention both in our own minds and in our data collection. Our methods should probably more closely match this regular activity and time-use diaries represent one way of doing this.

US average of 3 hrs 40 min a day on mobile devices

A new report shows that Americans are spending more time on their mobile devices:

U.S. consumers spend, on average, three hours and 40 minutes each day on their mobile devices, an increase of 35% from a year ago in the second quarter of 2014. And that time spent on mobile devices continues to increase, said Simon Khalaf, senior vice president of publishing products at Yahoo.

Globally there are 280 million “mobile addicts,” who use apps more than 60 times daily. Effectively, “these folks are conducting their lives on mobile,” Khalaf said. Regular users access apps up to 16 times daily, Flurry’s research found.

Over the last six months, the average time consumers spend on their phones or devices has increased by 43 minutes, or 24%, he said. “This is the mobile revolution,” Khalaf said. “There hasn’t been a single industry that hasn’t been disrupted by mobile and its applications.”

Khalaf revealed the findings Wednesday at Yahoo’s mobile developer conference in New York. The new data, also posted on the Yahoo Developer Tumblr page, came from mobile analytics company Flurry, which he was CEO of when Yahoo acquired Flurry in July 2014, and other sources including comScore and NetMarketShare. Flurry tracks 720,000 apps across two billion mobile devices.

Two quick thoughts:

  1. If the time on mobile devices is up so much, what other activities decreased in time? Perhaps some users have shifted time from other devices – like television or computers – but this data also might be based on double counting time (watching TV and on a mobile device). More multitasking with phone in hand might be the culprit here.
  2. The phrase “mobile addicts” seems odd here. Typically when we refer to addictions, we are referencing something that negatively interferes with other areas of life. However, attendees at a mobile developer conference might see this addiction as a good thing (more customers!) and Khalaf says people “are conducting their lives on mobile.” Is this addiction (probably not) or just a new normal?

“How a time-use expert uses her time”

An interesting look at how sociologists who study time use go about their days:

As a sociologist and director of the University of Maryland’s Time Use Laboratory, Sayer explores the ways that gender and social class guide the ways that people use their time. She looks for patterns and consequences of time use and the ways that these actions influence people’s daily lives.

When she’s not in her office, Sayer lives with her mother, who depends on Sayer’s care, as well as her husband and their three cats. And her recent trip to Texas was not for pleasure but instead to visit her sick older brother and take care of family business…

For many people, this blur of activity is a symptomatic of a condition that Sayer’s colleague, University of Maryland sociologist and time-use researcher John Robinson, calls “hurry sickness.”…

She’ll cram the leftover office work somewhere in between tidying up the house, feeding the cats, making dinner, eating (usually around 8), chatting with her mom and husband, cleaning, reading the newspaper and getting to bed by 11:30.

Don’t forget the impact of the invention of clocks on the modern era. And, for a variety of reasons, Americans seem particularly caught up with the clock – even if they aren’t particularly productive all the time. Workplace productivity has increased but that extra leisure time tends to go to things like television and not necessarily towards civic life. I imagine many sociologists have ideas about what would be best for people to do with their time but it is difficult to do many of these things – such as building and maintaining social relationships – within a social system which has additional aims such as making money or pushing mass media.

 

TV watching crushes all other leisure activities

Five Thirty Eight looks at the 2014 American Time Use Survey and finds TV still rules supreme:

Americans still spend more time watching TV than all other leisure activities combined:

Americans average 5.3 hours of leisure time per day (4.8 hours on weekdays and 6.5 hours on weekends and holidays) and over half that is spent in front of the television. Socializing and communicating is the next most popular activity and is the only one to nearly double on weekends (35 minutes on weekdays, 61 minutes on weekends).

libresco-datalab-timeuse

And an interesting parenting finding:

From 2010 to 2014, parents had deliberate conversations with their children for, on average, only 3 minutes a day, and they read to their kids for 2.4 minutes per day (about one picture book’s worth). Conversation with children helps spur language development, and several states run programs for low-income families, who may have less time at home, to help them engage their children and close the word gap.

That television still must provide something that other leisure activities just can’t compete with. Perhaps it is the compelling stories – something must be okay on those hundreds of channels. Perhaps it is just the plethora of options in HD on a big screen (improved TV technology goes a long ways, particularly for live events). Or maybe it is that TV doesn’t require much energy while many of the other leisure activities require more personal investment. For those who see this as a sign of civilization’s decline, at least Americans are persistent in their love for TV…

At 8 PM, 1/3 of Americans watching TV

An hour by hour breakdown from the American Time Use Survey shows TV watching peaks at 8 PM:

More than a third of Americans will watch TV between 8 and 9pm today, while only 8 per cent of the country will spend the same hour doing household chores, and 7 per cent of the country is still at work.

That is according to an hourly breakdown of the federal government’s American Time Use Survey produced by e-commerce company Retale…

It shows that the average American still works between the hours of 8am to 5pm from Monday to Friday, and spends his or her evening doing household chores or watching TV.

However, the statistics show that Americans are working an average of ten minutes less per day than in 2003, and spend more time sleeping.

Interesting interactive charts provided by Retale. At least Americans can be united by their TV watching each night.

It strikes me that data like this could prompt a discussion of whether Americans share daily common experiences. How we use our time gives some indications of life priorities though there is a good amount of variation – what are those other 2/3 thirds of people doing at 8 PM or what are all these people watching? Does the data suggest there are more common American time uses that unite us or are there so many significant demographic differences that we couldn’t make such a statement?