How Do Americans Use Their Time?

May 07, 1997

University Park, Pa. --- Though they may not believe it, Americans have more free time than they did 30 years ago. A new book shows that Americans have almost five hours more free time per week than in the 1960s.

"Most of the time they have gained is used for television viewing," says co-author Dr. Geoffrey Godbey, professor of leisure studies in Penn State's College of Health and Human Development.

He and Dr. John P. Robinson, professor of sociology and director of the Americans' Use of Time Project at the University of Maryland, have written a new book, "Time For Life: The Surprising Ways Americans Use Their Time," published by Penn State Press.

Americans over 50 years old are the biggest gainers of free time, studies show. "People think they are working longer hours, but in reality, they mistake pace of work for length of time spent working. On average, the number of hours that people spend working has diminished," Godbey says.

Robinson's and Godbey's studies shows that the bigger issue is pace of life, because most of the free time comes during the week, but is in small amounts which doesn't allow a person to undertake more satisfying uses of leisure.

The researchers argue that Americans' sense of "time famine" stems from the increased emphasis on the "consumption" of experiences and from the phenomenon of "time deepening," doing more and doing things more quickly and simultaneously.

On average, men and women have about the same amount of free time available to them. Studies have shown that women do about two-thirds of the housework and four-fifths of the child care. Even women who live alone spend twice as many hours doing housework as men who live alone.

"Within the housework, there are still divisions," says Godbey, explaining that women do more inside home care and men do more outside home care.

"Time is not a very important indicator of productivity," Godbey says, citing the example that the amount of time a student spends studying shows little relationship to grades earned.

In their book, Robinson and Godbey go beyond describing their controversial findings to confront the numerous time paradoxes facing Americans, such as feeling more rushed and stressed when we actually have more free time, having free time in periods when it is least useful, and investing time in activities that bring us minimal enjoyment or fulfillment.

Their source of time-use information, the Americans' Use of Time Project, is the only such detailed historical data archive in the United States. Every 10 years the project has been asking thousands of Americans to report their daily activities on an hour-by-hour basis in time diaries. These time diaries offer a more careful and complete account of where time goes because when the federal government measures work, they rely on people's estimates. The results of the time studies find that people are highly inaccurate in estimates of their own work time.

Robinson's and Godbey's new book leads to conclusions that are notably different from those reached by earlier authors such as Juliette Schor in her book, "The Overworked American."

Established in 1956, Penn State Press is a university press specializing in art history, black studies, general interest, history, literary studies, philosophy, political science, religion, regional studies, sociology, and women's studies.
EDITORS : Dr. Godbey can be contacted at (814) 863-8985 (office) or at on the Internet. Dr. Robinson can be contacted at (301) 405-5734.

Alison Reeves (814)865-1327 (office) (814)863-1408 (fax) adr3@psu.eduThe Penn State Press Home Page is at

Penn State

Related Housework Articles from Brightsurf:

The key to happiness: Friends or family?
Think spending time with your kids and spouse is the key to your happiness?

Women's communication shapes division of labor in household
For many couples, COVID-19 quarantine has shattered the normal routine and led some to renegotiate who does what around the house.

Time spent watching television does not replace physical activity for Finnish men
A large proportion of highly active men watch more television than their low-active peers do.

Benefits of electrification don't accrue equally for women, finds survey of homes in India
As households gain access to electricity, gender inequality persists in how energy is used.

Changing partners doesn't change relationship dynamics, study shows
New romances eventually follow patterns similar to old ones, according to U of A relationship researcher who led eight-year study.

Why money cannot 'buy' housework
If a man is handy with the vacuum cleaner, isn't averse to rustling up a lush family meal most nights after he's put on the washing machine having popped into the supermarket on his way home then it's more than likely his partner will have her own bank account.

Men take care of their spouses just as well as women (new research suggests)
Men respond to their spouse's illness just as much as women do and as a result are better caregivers in later life than previous research suggests, according to a new Oxford University collaboration.

Study highlights need for strength training in older women to ward off effects of aging
Study looked at 46 women across two different age ranges, 60-74 and 75-90, to learn how physical activity affects frailty differently in the two groups.

Dads are often having fun while moms work around the house
For the first time, researchers have evidence of exactly what dads are doing while moms are taking care of housework or tending to their child.

Household chores: Women still do more
Canadian women of all ages still tend to do more household chores than their male partners, no matter how much they work or earn in a job outside the home.

Read More: Housework News and Housework Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to