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IPUMS Time Use

Sandra Hofferth: A new suite of resources for accessing time-use data

Over the past five years MPRC Faculty Associate Sandra Hofferth has been working with a team at the University of Minnesota and at the University of Oxford to expand and simplify access to decades of population-based data for time use research. With funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development through the University of Maryland, Hofferth has been responsible for coordinating a time use team both nationally and internationally to provide access to time use data from around the world.

With its superb technical expertise and knowledge of data archiving and access, the Minnesota Population Center has pioneered in developing, archiving and disseminating population data through the web-based systems. Likewise, with a world-wide reputation for data harmonization, archiving, and dissemination, The Centre for Time Use Research at Oxford provides critical expertise and access to time use data for nations around the world.

Most demographers are familiar with the IPUMS system. IPUMS is an acronym for Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, now just referred to as “IPUMS”. Originally developed at the Minnesota Population Center, it archives census and survey-based population data for the U.S. and other nations around the world. The data are accessible on-line in similar web-based systems, of which IPUMS-Time Use is a newly released component.

IPUMS-Time Use

The new component consists of three integrated web sites: the American Time Use Survey (ATUS-X), the American Heritage Time Use Study (AHTUS-X), and the Multinational Time Use Study (MTUS-X). Researchers can access and analyze time diary data through a powerful web-based interface that makes customized, easy-to-use data extracts and enables the creation of measures of time use in user-defined activity aggregations. In contrast to other data sets that may contain some information on how individuals spend time, these data sets contain episode-level files based upon time-diary-formatted questionnaires so that users can define activities as they choose and aggregate them in a variety of ways, including by time of day, location of activity, and with whom time is spent. Each data archive provides internally consistent data; variables are harmonized across data sets and activity categories are comparable so that the user can access and merge comparable files with a simple point and click. User-defined data files can be downloaded and easily transformed into SAS, SPSS, and STATA formats. Documentation can be automatically produced for each file. Materials from a three-day training workshop held on the University of Maryland campus at the end of June are posted on the web site and available for download.

The American Time Use Survey Extract Builder

This web site provides access to all the data from the 2003-present American Time Use surveys plus its supplements, including the Eating and Health Module, the Well-being Module, and the Leave Module.  Identification of time spent in elder care or in child care is facilitated through special question sequences.

The American Heritage Time Use Study Extract Builder

This unique web site (note the word “heritage” in the web address) provides access to data from individual surveys conducted from 1965 through 2001 by separate teams, and from the American Time Use Surveys from 2003 to the present, harmonized to the same time use categories and that can be merged for cross-time analyses.

The Multinational Time use Study Extract Builder

This newly released archive allows access to harmonized time use data for the US, the UK, Spain and the Netherlands. During 2016-17 we plan to add data from Austria, Canada, Finland, and France. By 2021 we hope to include access to data from Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America as well as additional Western European nations.

The IPUMS-Time Use Project enables high-quality demographic research by integrating, documenting, and disseminating event-level data describing how people spend time. By providing access to a broad array of harmonized data in one system, the infrastructure dramatically reduces the cost of research on time use, minimizes the potential for user error, and improves the reproducibility of research findings.