Time As an Indicator of Social Change and the Quality of Life

John P. Robinson, Survey Research Center, The University of Michigan
[ to cite ]:
John P. Robinson (1975) ,"Time As an Indicator of Social Change and the Quality of Life", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 02, eds. Mary Jane Schlinger, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 847-850.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2, 1975      Pages 847-850

TIME AS AN INDICATOR OF SOCIAL CHANGE AND THE QUALITY OF LIFE

John P. Robinson, Survey Research Center, The University of Michigan

The paper briefly summarizes research on time use that has been taking place since 1965, highlighting some aspects of this research that should be of interest to consumer research. The available national data base consists of an urban probability sample of 1244 adult respondents interviewed in the Fall of 1965 and the Spring of 1966. Several methodological studies have been conducted on smaller and more localized samples in the interim.

Major analytic efforts with the 1965-66 data have been cross-national in scope since the data collection was geared into a larger 12-nation study. Such cross-national analyses revealed far less variation than expected in patterns of daily living across societies at widely different levels of economic development. At the same time, daily life within a society behaved regularly enough to identify each society with a characteristic "life style" and these life-styles generated the provocative cross-national portrait in Figure 1.

A second direction our research has taken is toward the documentation of the changing time-use patterns in this country. Compared to earlier sociological time-use studies, our data indicated little change in the gross allocation of time devoted to work, house work and leisure. Nonetheless, Americans did seem to spend more time traveling and shopping than they had 10 or 30 years previously. However, our data clearly indicated that on the temporal dimension television must have had far more impact than any other technological advance of this century. These data also revealed Americans to be far less addicted to television than figures from the rating services, and put American mass media behavior in much clearer perspective.

More recently, our efforts have been directed toward constructing a general model of time allocation. Figure 2 illustrates a preliminary working model that has guided several multivariate analyses, such as that in Table 1 which attempts to account for variations in time devoted to house work. Table 1 indicates employment status of the woman to be the major determinant of house work, followed by presence and age of children. House work, surprisingly, varies with age but not with social class variables. None of these variables is markedly associated with male contribution to house work.

One further direction of our research has been methodological. We have compared several methods of collecting time-use data, including a field validation of the diary approach. We are also attempting to add more social psychological meaning to time use, by incorporating measures of the degree of planning, constraint, energy and satisfaction that are associated with the activities that make up daily life.

FIGURE 1

TWO-DIMENSIONAL SOLUTION FOR SITE DIFFERENCES LN OVERALL TIME - USE PROFILES (37 ACTIVITIES)

FIGURE 2

SCHEMATIC MODEL OF FACTORS IN TIME USE

TABLE 1

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