Time use across the nation

Alexander Fishkov, Ph.D. student Computer Science

In this post, we will combine data from the American Time Use survey and Current Population Survey to see how time use patterns change with geographic location. We used 11 years of ATUS data (2003-2014) and the corresponding CPS data about the respondent’s state of residence. The American Time Use survey classifies daily activities into 431 detailed categories. For this post, we selected only those having a participation rate of at least 30 percent in each state. The top activities included sleeping, washing and dressing, food preparation, work, eating and watching television.

The median sleep time nationwide is 8 hours, 36 minutes. States on the West Coast and in the South tend to sleep longer, while the northern and western parts of the U.S. get a bit less than the average amount of sleep (with the exception of Montana and Maine). Apparently, people in Mississippi spend the most time in bed — this state’s average reported sleep time was 9 hours, the highest in the nation. North Dakota residents reported the shortest average sleep time in the country: 8 hours, 17 minutes.

Showering and grooming came next on the list. This time the bias skewed towards the Southeast, with a maximum time of 44 minutes per day reported in Alabama, South Carolina and Louisiana. This is likely due to the warm and humid climate in these areas. Residents of Alaska and Vermont spent the least time on washing and personal care: 31 minutes.

Cooking times varied widely across the states — residents of Hawaii and Washington, D.C. spent more than 31 minutes a day preparing food, while people in Oklahoma only spent about 21 minutes. Surprisingly, the numbers are very different for consuming food: People in the West and Northeast spend more time eating than in the South. The longest meals are in Vermont (1 hour, 12 minutes daily), and the shortest in Mississippi (55 minutes per day).

Watching TV is more popular in the eastern part of the U.S., primarily in the Southeast. In the West, people spend less time in front of the TV by at least half an hour. Delaware and West Virginia residents watch television for approximately 3 hours, 14 minutes per day, while residents of Wyoming and Utah only watched for 2 hours, 6 minutes.

The previous activities are part of an average day for the majority of the population, but the situation changes when we want to explore working time. People who study, do housekeeping while their partner is at work, or those who are already retired constitute a large portion of the respondents. Because of this, it is reasonable to restrict the calculation of average work time per day to only those who reported working. Workers’ average reported times are higher in the states where mining and agriculture play a large role in the total production. The longest work day is in North Dakota (8 hours), and the shortest in Rhode Island (6 hours, 55 minutes).

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About Alexander Fishkov

Alexander Fishkov, Ph.D. student Computer Science

Alexander is a Ph.D. student in Computer Science. He currently holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Applied Math. He has experience working for industry major companies performing research in the fields of machine learning, data mining and natural language processing. In his free time, Alexander enjoys hiking, Nordic skiing and traveling.

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