Time Budgets and Consumer Leisure-Time Behavior: an Eleven-Year-Later Replication and Extension (Part I - Females)

Douglass K. Hawes, The University of Wyoming
ABSTRACT - A 1984 replication of a time-budget study conducted in 1973 is discussed. In terms of how people believe they would spend additional discretionary time, there is less variation noted between the two studies in the activities mentioned for filling "an extra two hours in my day" than in filling "a three-day weekend every week."
[ to cite ]:
Douglass K. Hawes (1987) ,"Time Budgets and Consumer Leisure-Time Behavior: an Eleven-Year-Later Replication and Extension (Part I - Females)", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 14, eds. Melanie Wallendorf and Paul Anderson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 543-547.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 14, 1987      Pages 543-547


Douglass K. Hawes, The University of Wyoming


A 1984 replication of a time-budget study conducted in 1973 is discussed. In terms of how people believe they would spend additional discretionary time, there is less variation noted between the two studies in the activities mentioned for filling "an extra two hours in my day" than in filling "a three-day weekend every week."


This is a descriptive, atheoretical paper on the time-budget allocations reported in 1984 by a representative nationwide sample of adults and how those allocations differ from those reported in a very similar study conducted in 1973. Settle, Alreck and Glasheen (1978) addressed the time orientation of adults and how such focus (on dimensions of past/future orientation, and high/low activity, structure, and tenacity) translates into differing life-style patterns. Hendrix, Kinnear and Taylor (1979) proposed a preliminary model of how consumers allocate time based upon the constrained or circumscribed nature of time as an allocable resource as a function of a variety of anterior (uncontrollable in the short-run) conditions and the relative proportion of time-inelastic activities. Holman and Wilson (1980) built upon this conceptualization and an earlier one by Arndt and Gronmo (1977) to show how female consumers may use (reduce) time-elastic activities such as grocery shopping to increase their discretionary time. These two authors further develop their model (1982) and provide an AID3/MCA analysis in 1984 (Wilson and Holman 1984) in which it is shown that younger women (under 35) (as a proxy for stage in the Family Life Cycle) are more likely than women over 35 to strive to gain discretionary time through time-saving grocery shopping strategies. Hornik (1985) presented a conceptual model lending support to the notion that time devoted to shopping is likely to be a function of the Family Life Cycle, particularly with regard to the impact of increasing age and wages decreasing the amount of time spent in time-intensive shopping activities. Hendrix (1984) proposed seven antecedents and five consequences of the quantity of time allocated to a variety of activities.

The only other reported studies in the marketing/consumer behavior literature dealing with time-budgets with which the author is familiar, are those by Hendrix and Qualls (1981) in which they contrasted self-reported measures of household task responsibility with time diary (time budget) data, a paper on the changes in allocation of home activities as a result of purchase of a home computer (Venkatesh, Vitalari, and Gronhaug, 1983), the recent volume by Juster and Stafford (1985) discussed below, and several articles in the special issue of Journal of Consumer Research (JCR) (March 1981) dealing with the consumption of time.

In this JCR issue, two papers utilized time-budget data. Hornik and Schlinger (1981), using 1979 data from a nationwide probability sample, found an average television viewing time of 1083 minutes per week for females and 939 minutes per week for males. This is only slightly (15 percent and 9 percent respectively) larger than the 942 and 858 minutes per week (for females and males respectively) found by Haves (1977) in 1973. They also fount an average of 316 minutes per week (females) and 330 minutes per week (males) spent in reading newspapers; this compares with Haves' (1977) 1973 finding of 306 minutes per week for both females and males. Jackson-Beech and Robinson (1981) compared television viewers and non-viewers on a variety of dimensions based on a 1975 national probability sample of households (N 1519). While time-budget category definitional differences (as well as others) preclude direct comparisons, it is noteworthy that their category of "domestic chores" averaged out to 21.7 hours per week, while Haves (1977) found 22.8 hours per week spent in "'housework, necessary home maintenance and lawn c-re" by females in 1973.

A very recent volume by Juster and Stafford (1985) of the Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan reports on 3 national time-budget studies conducted by that organization. They found very similar figures to those in the study reported herein for hours worked at your job for both males and females, for television viewing for both sexes, and in the decline in time spent in passive leisure pursuits.


The particular research questions driving the 1984 study which are addressed herein are:

1. How did Americans in 1984 allocate, on the average, their fixed weekly time budget of 168 hours, and how does this allocation pattern differ from that found in 1973?

2. How do these patterns vary across demographic categories and what changes within these categories have occurred since 1973?

3. How many hours per week were spent, on the average, in 1984 in a set of specific leisure-time activities and how has that number changed since 1973?

4. How has the pattern of preferred intended uses of extra "free-time" (2 hours-per-day or a 3-day weekend every week) changed since 1973?


This study utilized data taken from a representative nationwide sample of 1650 households surveyed by Market Facts, Inc. (Chicago) during the late Spring of 1984. the particular households surveyed were selected from Market Facts 60,000+ household Consumer Mail Panel (CMP), and the sample was "balanced" on five variables so that the household demographic composition closely paralleled the continental civilian adult noninstitutionalized population as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau s Current Population Survey in March 1983. The five balancing variables were geographic region, population tensity, total annual household income, household size and age of female head-of-household.

The 1650 household sample was comprised of 872 households in which the female head indicated she was married, and 778 households in which the female head indicated a non-married status. The male questionnaire was sent to the 872 "married" households. A total of 1090 female questionnaires were returned for an overall response rate of 66 percent. Of these, 605 returns came from "unmarried" household (78 percent return), and 485 returns included both a female and a male questionnaire (56 percent return).

The final questionnaire requested, in addition to other items, information on:

1. Approximately how many of the 168 hours in a week the respondent spent in each of 17 listed activities during the "average" week.

2. What the respondent would do with an extra two hours in their day, and with a three-tay weekend every week. The respondent was given a list of 35 possible activities from which to choose and could choose as many as desired under each (either) of the two situations.


Table 1 compares the mean hours per week spent in different activities, by females and by males, in both 1973 and 1984. It should again be noted that all figures represent all female respondents or all male resp dents -- including therefore both participants and nonparticipants in a given activity.



Using the activities from "reading newspapers and magazines" to the end of the list as defining leisure-time pursuits for the purposes of this study, we note that the total number of hours spent by females in these activities did not change appreciably -- 37.6 hours in 1973, 37.0 hours in 1984. The situation for males, however, was quite different. The total for mean hours spent by males in these activities increased from 34.2 hours to 38.5 hours h a 12.5 percent increase. a is increase was paced by a 3.5 hour increase in reading, a 2.9 hour increase in television viewing and a 1.1 hour increase in participating in sports and outdoor recreation. The largest decline over the period was in non-sports-related entertainment outside the home. (Note: Refer to the footnotes to Table 1 for the indicants of statistically significant differences between the means). While the numbers differ (due to categorization differences, no doubt), the fact that men in general have more leisure-time per week than women is supported by a Louis Harris survey reported by Adams (1984).

As with the males, significantly more time was spent per week by females in 1984 in reading, and participating in sports and outdoor recreation and less time in non-sports-related entertainment outside the home. Females also decreased their time expenditures on hobbies, games and crafts.

The higher participation rate of women in the labor force in 1984 over that in 1973 is reflected in this data. Similarly, the overall declining trend in hours worked per week by males as reported by Hedges and Taylor (1980) is seen in this data The decline in male hours of market work and increase in equivalent female hours agrees with the trend implicit in Stafford's (1980 p. 57) comment that, "...overall, women's hours of market work continue to approach those of men."

Sociologists have noted that "Employed mothers do spend only about half as much time as full-time housewives in the company of their children...", and this is reflected in the very significant drop in the reported mean hours per week spent with children (Waite 1981 p. 17). Similarly, the decline in the hours spent by both working and non-working women in housework, et. al., and the increase in the time spent on housework by men has been well documented (Stafford 1980; Russell 1985; Dunn 1985; Prescott 1983). Russell (1985 p. 25) cites a study done by Michelson in 1980 in which it was-found that married women who work full-time spend only two hours per day on average in housework (not including child care), while women who work part-time spend four hours on housework each day, and full-time housewives spent an average of five hours per day on this activity.

Tables 2 and 3 display the mean hours per week spent by all females in 1984 and 1973 respectively in the seven activities deemed to be essentially leisure-time activities and the activity "playing with or helping your children." Clearly this latter activity could be seen by some as a discretionary, leisure-time activity and by others as a mandatory "chore" and hence not truly discretionary.

The decline in amount of time spent with children previously noted is shown to be most pronounced among those women in the youngest age category, who are either a high school graduate or a college graduate, who are employed part time or are self-employed, who have either 1 child or who are single parents with two children, and/or who live in central city areas (with those living in rural areas close behind.)

The increase in readership of newspapers and magazines is most evident in the oldest age category, among those with less than a high school education, employed less than full-time, and/or living in central city areas. The decline in time spent on hobbies, games and crafts is greatest among those in their early 30's (plus or minus), those with "some college", those in a household of 3 persons, ant/or those living in "urban" areas.

There was no significant difference in the mean hours per week spent in visiting with friends and relatives, or in attending sporting events between 1973 and 1984. The increase in the time spent participating in sports and outdoor recreation is clearly noticeable among those in their early 30's (plus or minus), with either "some" college or a college degree, full-time homemakers, and/or in households of two people. the decline in time spent in entertainment outside the home (other than sporting events) is highest among those in their early 50's (plus or minus), those with "some" college, those in households of 5 or more, and/or those living in rural areas.

It is interesting to note that the reported hours spent watching television by females "did not" change between 1973 and 1984, averaging some 2.24 hours per day (Table l). m is figure is considerably below the Nielson reported figure of 6.5 hours per day for the period between September 1982 and August 1983 (Brown 1984; Nielson 1985), but very close to the male/female figures of 2.16/1.98 and 2.21/1.84 hours per tay for 1975 and 1981 (respectively) reported in Juster and Stafford (1985). In this author's estimation, the Nielson/Arbitron figures are overstated as they record (either by diary or meter) the time the set is "on" -not necessarily when it is being viewed by the male and female heads-of-household (as opposed to children or visitors). She tendency for people to over-report watching network stations to the detriment of independents has apparently been a longstanding problem (Beville 1985). Nielson and Arbitron diary-reporting has long been criticized on a variety of grounds (Beville 1985).



The publication Social Indicators III notes that not specifically collecting data on television viewing as a secondary (background) activity can understate the time which a TV set is on by 35 to 45 minutes per day (Bureau of the Census 1980 p. 528). She statement is also made that "She Nielson figures are probably inflated because people often report watching an entire program when they, in fact, have seen only a portion of a particular show " (Bureau of the Census p. 529). In fairness, it should also be noted that the 1973 and 1984 surveys reported on here were both conducted during the Hay-June period. According to Social Indicators III, this period of the year is close to the lowest point in hours-per-day of television viewing over the course of the year. Respondents likely were using this period as the base for their estimated per-week viewing. She net relative constancy in female TV viewing is probably a function of both higher workforce participation and the general upward trend in TV usage per day noted by Nielson (1985).

As a partial validity check on self-report "averaging" method used in this study and its predecessor in 1973, a much more elaborate time diary study conducted by the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center in 1975 found an overall average of 15.2 hours per week spent in watching television or a primary activity (Robinson 1979 p. 43). (This compares with an overall female plus male average in the 1973 study by this author of 15.0 hours per week (Table 1)). Of course, there are many caveats associated with the self-reporting of any behavior.



One of the most interesting findings that relates to the relative consistency over the 11-year period in hours spent watching television, is the essentially identical number of hours, on overall average, spent in the seven leisure-time categories by females in both 1973 and 1984. An average total of 37 hours per week was spent by female respondents in these categories of activities in both years. This figure is very close to the 41-43 hours reported spent by individuals in (undefined) leisure-time in a recent study of 1000 people of both sexes from all 50 states done by Research and Forecasts, Inc. for United Media Enterprises (Brozan 1983), and the consistent figure of approximately 45 hours per week in (undefined) leisure activities reported by Juster and Stafford (1985 p. 316-317) for both males and females aged 25-97 in both 1975 and 1981. The inclusion of respondents under 25 in this author's study may be a reason for the lover average here. The overall consistency is interesting and would appear to support the equilibrium model of time allocation proposed by Wilson and Holman (1984) and detailed in their earlier paper (Holman and Wilson 1982).

Women under approximately 40 years of age, paced by significant declines in television viewing and time spent visiting or in hobbies, showed the greatest decline in time spent on these seven leisure-time activities which undoubtedly reflects their higher workforce participation rate. Women in the oldest age group showed the largest increase in time spent in these categories of any age group. Full-time homemakers, paced by a 67 percent increase in the time spent participating in sports or outdoor recreation and a 33 percent increase in the time spent reading, showed the greatest increase in time spent of any of the employment groups.

Households of three persons showed the largest change a decrease of nearly 7 hours per week across the combined seven categories. This decline was in large part a result of nearly 2 hour declines in weekly time spent on hobbies, etc. and in visiting, and a 1.6 hour (47 percent) decline in time spent in "entertainment outside the home . . . "

Usage of Additional Discretionary Time

Tables 4 and 5 contrast the 1973 and 1984 female responses to the questions "What would you do with an extra two hours in your day?" and "What would you do with a three day weekend every week?" respectively. It is noteworthy that the top three activities in Table 4 did not change over the eleven year period. Reflecting the decline in time spent on hobbies, etc. shown in Tables 2 and 3 and discussed above, there seems to be a distinct decline in interest in indoor hobbies and an increase in interest in outdoor hobbies (though not enough time to engage in them). Other notable changes are the decline in interest in "creative" activities, in shopping, in spending time with family/playing with children, and in school board/PTA activities; and increases in interest in gardening/landscaping, spending time on personal business/work engaging in athletics/physical exercise, and doing repair work on the home.



Table 5 shows a 55 percent greater number of significant differences between 1973 and 1984 than Table 4. mere is also much more change in the 1984 rankings of the top 12 activities in 1973. While weekend trips, sightseeing, and visiting relatives did not change very much in their rank ordering, they all shoved a significant decline in the proportion of respondents expressing an interest in them. Visiting friends and socializing and spending time with family/playing with children not only dropped significantly in percentage expressing an interest, but also in rank.

Catching up on household chores and projects, doing repair work on the house, and gardening/landscaping (all essentially home property-related activities) all showed significant increases in both respondent percentage and rank. Fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, and backpacking seem to have lost in allure to women over the eleven-year period. Perhaps they are using some of that time for shopping or for social-involvement activities (church or community/charitable organization) or for self-improvement (athletics/physical activity or going back to school).




The findings discussed herein add support to a variety of social trends noted in the media and present actionable, if suggestive, implications for marketers engaged in the leisure-time "industries" of Tables 4 and 5. Marketers facing a decline in interest in a particular activity need to look behind the numbers and find out why. Those facing an increase in interest should not only find out why but also increase promotion and facilities.

The relative constancy of time spent in the leisure-time activities addressed would appear to support the equilibrium theory of time allocation noted earlier. Changes in male and female work and home roles are supported by the changes in a variety of the time-budget "activities." Men are "doing more" around the home; women more in the "work-world." It appears that print media have gained in the battle for women's time, while hobbies, games and crafts have lost "market share." Women in the "active years" are spending more time in outdoor active recreation and less time in out-of-home entertainment.

Sociologists will find further support in this data to explore the implications of the decline in interest in visiting friends and socializing (in certain demographic groups), and in the decline in time spent with children. Is "quality time" sufficient to overcome lack of quantity of time?

Extrapolation of these results to the U.S. population-at-large should be viewed with the usual caveats and cautions, of course, as the Market Facts, Inc. panel is not a purely random sample of the national population.

The importance of these results lies in presenting fresh data on time expenditures and leisure-time preferences in a manner comparable with decade old data. While the findings, per se, may not suggest any specific changes in marketing practice, they to lend support to at least one theory of time allocation and suggest (or support) various social trends. Further examination of time and leisure usage within specific subgroups of the population is the next step in attempting to clarify the role of time usage in models of consumer behavior.


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(Note: The author had to delete 125 lines of the original manuscript in order to fit within these 5 pages.)