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More Leisure Time, but Less Enjoyment?

American Time Use Survey featured on NPR

MPRC faculty associate John Robinson recently appeared on National Public Radio to discuss findings from the American Time Use Survey. Robinson and his colleagues asked people to record everything they did throughout the day in a time use diary. Participants recorded not only what they were doing, but also how they felt about it. Results showed that on average, Americans have about thirty minutes more free time per day than they used to. One reason for this change might be that family structure has changed over time. People today are less likely to be married than they were a few decades ago, and they also tend to have fewer children.

But surprisingly, even though Americans have more free time than they used to, they often don’t enjoy it. Television watching was one of the most popular free time activities, with most people in the study watching about twenty hours per week. Yet people ranked television watching fairly low on the scale of things they actually enjoyed doing. Watching TV, working, and doing household chores were among the least enjoyed activities in the study, while volunteering, socializing, and playing with children ranked among the highest.

According to Robinson, one of the most shocking findings was the low amount of satisfaction that people received from their jobs. “It used to be the case that work was above average in terms of the enjoyment people got,” says Robinson. “And here it is down towards the bottom, actually at about the same level as [housework]. I think that is something which really needs a lot more research.”

Read or listen to the story on NPR

Read the story in TIME

Read the story in The Scotsman

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