Antecedents and Consequences of Time Use: Proposed Measures and Preliminary Evidence

ABSTRACT - This paper proposes a wide array of constructs which may be regarded as antecedents and consequences of time use. Few of these constructs have been analyzed in the context of time use. Illustrative measures are suggested. Preliminary evidence presented reveals that antecedents and consequences vary significantly across the population and across sub-groups defined by age, sex, and employment status of respondents. Arguments suggesting how such constructs may be incorporated into modeLs of time allocation are developed.


Philip E. Hendrix (1984) ,"Antecedents and Consequences of Time Use: Proposed Measures and Preliminary Evidence", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 11, eds. Thomas C. Kinnear, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 35-40.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 11, 1984      Pages 35-40


Philip E. Hendrix, Emory University


This paper proposes a wide array of constructs which may be regarded as antecedents and consequences of time use. Few of these constructs have been analyzed in the context of time use. Illustrative measures are suggested. Preliminary evidence presented reveals that antecedents and consequences vary significantly across the population and across sub-groups defined by age, sex, and employment status of respondents. Arguments suggesting how such constructs may be incorporated into modeLs of time allocation are developed.


Historically, researchers have largely ignored time as a facet of consumer behavior, focusing instead on the acquisition of goods and services. Recently, the discipline has begun to recognize the fundamental importance of time, primarily as a resource which, like money, consumers spend (Becker 1965; Bender 1964; Schary 1971). In fact, the interdependence between the allocation of time and the demand for various goods and services (Etgar 1978) has stimulated considerable conceptual and empirical work (see the special issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, March, 1981, on the consumption of time). Much of this research has focused on the impact of demographic and economic variables on time use. Few studies have measured and assessed the impact of social or psychological variables which may influence time use, as Feldman and Hornik (1981) have observed. Perhaps with the exception of research on women working, even fewer studies have addressed the consequences of time use, despite the theoretical and practical significance (Linder 1970; Nicosia and Mayer 1976).

Clearly, how consumers spend their time is determined by factors other then demographic and economic variables. Such determinants, which may be called antecedents, include values, attitudes, preferences, roles, temporal orientation, skills and abilities, environmental factors, and others. In addition to time expenditures, the primary focus of research to date, there are significant consequences of time use, including role overload and conflict, (dis)satisfaction, role fulfillment, productivity, tangible outputs, and others. Time use may be more fully understood and its effects identified by broadening the scope of research to encompass such antecedents and consequences.

The objective of this paper is to introduce a number of antecedents and consequences of time use which appear to be most promising extensions of current research efforts. Various constructs are defined and their relevance discussed. Potential measures are presented along with preliminary bivariate empirical evidence to explicate the antecedents and consequences proposed.


Figure 1 identifies three primary components of a broad model of time use: antecedents, time expenditures/consumption of goods and services, and consequences. The antecedents are presented primarily as determinants of time use, while the consequences are largely determined by time expenditures. Nonetheless, it is quite reasonable to expect reciprocal relationships in some instances. For example, preferences may be modified by spending time in various activities, as may skills and abilities. Likewise, role overload is likely to have an indirect effect on time expenditures (Reilly 1982), perhaps by bringing about a change in role identification.

The model depicted in Figure 1 is likely to be most applicable when time expenditures are examined over some limited period of time, such as a day, week, or month. Antecedents may then be correctly considered exogenous. Over longer periods of time, however, the model is likely to be considerably more complex than suggested in Figure 1. Determining the nature and direction of these interrelationships is an important task for future research. Our objective is a more immediate one--to suggest measures of antecedents and consequences which might profitabLy be explored in time use research.




The measures examined in this paper are drawn from the national Study of Time Use conducted by the Institute for Social Research, the University of Michigan, in 1915-1976. The survey was conducted among a nationally representative sample of individuals 18 years of age or older. Each respondent supplied considerable data pertaining to his or her attitudes, behavior, and demographic characteristics. In order to suggest the potential usefulness of the constructs examined, results from univariate and bivariate analyses are presented for a subset of the measures which appear in Figure l. The bivariate analyses examine antecedents and consequences of time use across sub-groups defined by sex, age, and employment status of the respondent. The significance levels, from X2 tests, are summarized in Table l.

Virtually all of the measures drawn from the Time Use Study to operationalize the constructs presented below are categorical, with three to four categories, typically. The percentages generated by the cross-tabulations are numerous--space limitations prevent their inclusion in the paper. The detailed results are available from the author.

Age is dichotomized at the median age for the sample, e.g., 40. A less restrictive categorization, e.g., with three or more categories, may yield clearer results regarding the relationship between the measures examined and age. (The same may apply to employment, e.g., by separating employed into part-time and full-time.) For the illustrative purposes of this article, the analyses presented should suffice. However, the results presented in this paper should be regarded as tentative since interdependencies among the antecedents and consequences are ignored and since findings are based on bivariate analyses. These data are currently being analyzed using methods which overcome both of these limitations (Hendrix in progress).


The antecedents of time use specified in Figure 1 include the economic and demographic variables traditionaLLy examined as well as psychological, social, and physiological constructs.

Values and Standards

Among the most fundamental determinants of consumer behavior, and presumably time use, are values (Vinson et al 1977). Consumers hold values in a number of domains and at varying levels of specificity. Certain values are likely to direct individuals to spend time in activities which yield outcomes consistent with or supportive of those values, e.g., independence and "do-it-yourself" activities, frugality and shopping, perhaps status and time devoted to personal or professional development, etc. Identifying such values and determining their relative importance, then, would provide a fuller understanding of an important determinant of time use.

Closely related to values, but at a much lower level of specificity, are standards. Standards may exist (more or less explicitly) for the cleanliness of the house, the quality of meals, and many other time-dependent phenomena. It is apparent that one's own standards as well as those of others, e.g., spouse, may influence time expenditures.

In the Time Use Study, respondents were asked how important it is to have the house "straightened up and neat all the time." Nearly half indicated that it is very important, while only 12: stated that it is not very important. Individuals over the age of 40 and those who were not employed were more likely to regard as important a "neat home." This may reflect an emerging trend toward a more casual, less formal lifestyle (Engel and Blackwell 1982) which may be more prevalent among younger consumers. The impact on time use of such standards and vice versa, e.g., the degree to which changes in time use, such as women working, are affecting standards, are important phenomena to examine.


Individuals occupy a variety of roles, such as parent, spouse, employee, etc., each of which stipulates (more or less formally) certain expenditures of time. As such, roles are significant determinants of time use, both directly, in terms of the activities necessary to satisfy those roles, as well as indirectly, by affecting the amount and quality of time available to devote to other activities (Reilly 1982; Marks 1977). Typically, analyses of time use include demographics as indicators of the roles individuals occupy. It may be more useful, however, to examine various facets of roles directly, e.R.. role identification, role flexibility, etc.

Employment, for example, may exert a very different impact on one's time use depending on the individual's reason for working (Bartos 1977), the nature of the job (Kabanoff 1980), and its flexibility. Most employed individuals in the Time Use Study (90%) report that their job "uses their skills and abilities" at least fairly well, with the proportion slightly higher among older persons. Such differences may influence the leisure activities in which consumers engage. In terms of job flexibility, one-fourth of all respondents would have some difficulty "getting off from work for a couple of hours to take care of a personal matter"--females tend to have less flexibility than males. Many household tasks which must be "worked in" may be significantly affected by the consumer's job flexibility. These and other characteristics of roles--both acquired and ascribed, e.g., sex and age- may prove to be more useful in explaining time use than one's roles as indicated by demographics alone.

Role norms are also likely to influence time expenditures, in both a positive and a negative sense. Norms corresponding to sex, age, occupation, and numerous other social roles may be identified. For example, approximately one-half of the respondents agree with the statement that "some work is for men while other work is for women and [that men and women] should not be doing each other's work." Interestingly, men and respondents over the age of 40 are more likely to agree that sex-typing of activities is appropriate. Roughly 50% also agree that the husband should not have to help his non-working wife "around the house after he has come home from a hard day's work." In this instance, women, persons not employed, and as before, persons over the age of 40 were more apt to agree with this statement. These and other role norms related to time use would be useful to examine. In addition to increasing our level of understanding of time allocation, such measures may prove particularly useful as leading indicators of emerging changes in role behavior, e.g., the division of responsibilities within the household.

Attitudes and Preferences

A wide array of attitudes and preferences may affect how consumers spend their time (Hawes and Arndt 1980). Particularly important are attitudes toward activities, e.g., whether one enjoys various activities, regards an activity as appropriate or necessary for role enactment (McCall and Simmons 1978), etc. The majority of consumers report that they enjoy work and free time activities about equally, while over one-fourth enjoys free time more. Persons over the age of 40, interestingly, are slightly more likely to enjoy work more than their free time.

Attitudes toward market substitutes for one's own time or that of another household member in activities may also be pertinent. Over 40: of the respondents preferred eating out at a good restaurant to having a good meal in their home--the proportion is somewhat higher among women (perhaps since they do most of the cooking) and younger respondents. Attitudes toward other activities and their corresponding goods and services (complementary or substitutive), such as home maintenance, child care, entertainment, etc., are also likely to be significant determinants of time use. In the area of household production, for example, nearly two-thirds would rather do their own housework than have someone else do it--this proportion is substantially higher among women, persons over the age of 40, and individuals who are not employed. Such attitudes may govern whether the production of various commodities, to use the terminology of the new home economics, is goods or time intensive, phenomena clearly of interest to marketers.

Various segments of the market, perhaps depending on the value of their time (Wolf 1973), are likely to regard wasted time quite differently. NearLy 20: of the total sample are "very annoyed" when they have to wait in line--the proportion is somewhat higher among males and employed persons. Such attitudes toward the productivity with which one's time is spent may stimulate the adoption of a variety of time-saving strategies (Strober and Weinberg 1980) including shopping at non-peak times, paying a premium for convenience, and others.

Temporal Orientation

Dimensions of temporal orientation have been examined and measured in a series of studies conducted by Settle et al (1978) and Holman (forthcoming). Particularly significant dimensions include time consciousness, time horizon, the ability to defer reinforcement or gratification, and others. Despite their potential, these and other measures have not been widely specified and operationalized in analyses of time expenditures.

In the Time Use Study, a number of pertinent measures were obtained. Respondents were asked whether they are the "kind of person who plans life ahead all the time or who lives from day to day"--about one-half the sample falls into each category. Persons over the age of 40, men, and employed respondents are more likely to plan ahead. Over 402 of the respondents indicate that they "do a lot of things they do not like to do so that their life will be better in the future"--the proportion of respondents who are sacrificing for the future is slightly higher among employed persons. Nearly 855 of the sample rates as important "doing the things they want to do, even if other things, such as housework, are left undone." Women and non-employed persons are somewhat more likely to "to the things they want to do."

Two other measures are noteworthy. Approximately two-thirds of the respondents "try to fix things at the first sign of trouble [rather than] waiting until something has to be tone"--women, persons not employed, and especially older persons are even more inclined to fix things right away. Most (73%) of the respondents indicate that it is very important to them to do a task right the first time even if it takes more time--males are even more Likely to regard this as important. Such orientations are likely to affect the frequency, scheduling, and perhaps the time required for a wide variety of maintenance-type tasks. Responses to these questions, of course, may be influenced by the respondents' desire to provide socially desirable answers.

These measures related to consumers' temporal orientation are suggestive of the role such concepts may play in time allocation. Research designed to integrate such measures into a broader model of time use would appear to be promising.

Other Antecedents

For completeness, presented in Figure 1 are other antecedents of time use. Environmental factors, such as climate, population tensity, type of dwelling, and others, as well as resources (income, assets, etc.) have been examined more thoroughly and will not be addressed here. The remaining category consists of individuals' skills and abilities, e.g., physical abilities, musical and artistic skills, intellect, etc. There is quite obviously considerable variation across the population in terms of these characteristics, though little empirical evidence is available. Even less is known about their impact on time use despite the rather intuitive relationships one might expect. This too would appear to be a fruitful area for research, particularly in view of the number of goods and services the use or consumption of which presumes certain skills or abilities, e.g., many leisure activities, home and automobile maintenance, cooking, shopping, acquiring information from computerized databases. and others.

These antecedents, then, are indicative of constructs which have been largely ignored in analyses of time expenditures. The measures reported here show considerable variability, across the population as well as across the sub-groups examined. This evidence and compelling theoretical arguments suggest that such constructs might substantially enhance our understanding of time expenditures. Also important are consequences of time use, discussed in the next section.


The outcomes of spending time may be tangible, e.g., a clean house, a meal prepared, etc., and/or intangible, e.g., a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, or perhaps frustration. The tangible outputs of time expenditures are of considerable interest to economists concerned with measuring and valuing household production (Dow and Juster 1980). Determining the quality of meals, the cleanliness of the home, and other tangible outputs poses difficult measurement problems, however. Despite the importance of these consequences, we have no data which remedy the measurement difficulties. There are, however, other consequences of time use which should be of particular interest to marketers. These are primarily social and psychological constructs, as shown in Figure 1. The balance of the paper examines these constructs and illustrative measures. As before, the constructs are proposed, potential measures presented, and preliminary evidence cited.


Productivity, or the degree to which time is efficiently employed, most likely varies across individuals and certainly varies across time and situations. Productivity is more than the amount of time spent in an activity or what results from the expenditure of time--rather, it is some combination of the two. This personal productivity may depend on a variety of factors, including individual abilities, perhaps temporal orientations, environmental factors (e.g., a setting conducive to an activity), and others. Again, little is known about consumers' productivity. As noted above, measuring the quantity and quality of outputs is difficult, which limits the applicability of conventional input/output analysis. In terms of consumers' perceptions of their own productivity, 40% feel that they do more than most peopLe [their own age]. Employed persons are more likely to feel productive than non-employed persons. Over 10% said they often had "time on their hands that they did not know what to do with" while one-third indicated this occurred at least now and then. Older consumers and those who are not employed are more likely to have free time "on their hands."

As time becomes more scarce and/or more valuable, questions regarding the productivity of time expenditures are likely to increase in significance. As Mentzer and Cook (1979) pointed out, consumers may select goods and services primarily on the basis of their compatibility with desired patterns of time use--those which deliver the same benefits in less time may be preferred to others, e.g., tennis vs. golf, video games vs. conventional board games, microwave ovens vs. conventional ovens, etc. Clearly, the efficiency with which consumers spend time may play an increasingly important role in their time and money expenditures.

Energy Expended

Related to productivity is the energy expended in activities or during some period o f time, such as a day (Marks 1977; Goode 1960). Here we are concerned with the intensity with which time is spent--to what degree do expenditures of time exhaust the consumer's energy?

Obviously, some activities are more demanding than others- contrast taking an exam vs. watching a typical television program, or caring for pre-school children vs. reading the newspaper. Likewise, some individuals approach particular activities with very different levels of intensity, as anyone who teaches students can confirm.

Evidence from the Time Use Study provides some new insights into these questions--when asked how much energy "keeping up with their day-to-day responsibilities" consumes, nearly one-third reported most or almost all. The proportions are somewhat higher among women ant, perhaps counter to expectations, among persons Who are not employed. Questions regarding which activities are most demanding in terms of energy, how energy expended is related to productivity, satisfaction, and the quantity and quality of commodities produced are all significant research questions.


One of the most important consequences of time use is the resulting satisfaction or dissatisfaction. As Hornik and Schlinger (1981) have noted, individuals attempt to allocate their time to activities which they find satisfying. The degree to which individuals succeed in so allocating their time is likely to vary, however, with a variety of constraints and opportunities imposed by personal and environmental factors (Hobson and Mann 1974). It has been suggested that demand for substitutive (time-saving) and complementary (time-using) goods and services may be determined in part by the (dis satisfaction consumers derive from various activities. In addition, measures of consumer welfare based on the congruence between preferred and actual time expenditures have been proposed and operationalized (Hobson and Mann 1974; Dow and Juster 1980). The satisfaction resulting from time expenditures is thus important for marketing and public policy purposes.

In the Time Use Study, most (60%) of the respondents are very satisfied with the "things they do in their free time." Individuals over the age of 40 and those not employed are more likely to be satisfied with their free time activities. Nonetheless, there is a significant proportion of consumers who may be more satisfied with some alternative pattern of time use. Identifying these consumers, the sources of their dissatisfaction, and factors which prevent them from modifying their time expenditures, e.g., resources, roles, etc., are significant research issues, theoretically and pragmatically.

Role Overload/Conflict

As noted earlier, individuals occupy a variety of roles. Not all of these roles are compatible, e.g., behavior appropriate for one may be inappropriate for another. In addition, because of the scarcity of time, taking on additional obligations may diminish the effectiveness with which some roles are satisfied. Perhaps the demands placed on working women by their jobs and their families best illustrate role overload. Such consequences are important for a number of reasons. Clearly, role overload may negatively affect both the tangible and intangible outputs of time expenditures--e.g., the house is not as well maintained, one's health is permitted to deteriorate, the commitment to one or more of the roles is reduced, etc. Indeed, in some instances, the overload may become so intense that the individual withdraws from one or more of the roles.

Some researchers have speculated that role overload and conflict are becoming more significant problems in our "harried" society (Linder 1970). Evidence from the Time Use Study tends to confirm this. Over one-fourth of the respondents indicated that they were "almost always rushed to do the things they have to do"--75% are at least sometimes rushed. Employment and age are both related to "being rushed"--only 15% of employed respondents are "never rushed" compared to 40% of those who are not employed. Younger respondents also tend to be more rushed than older respondents.

Other questions about how the individual spends his or her time may provide indirect evidence of the presence of role overload or conflict. For example, over one-third of the respondents indicated that they do "more than one thing at a time" most of the time--this proportion is even higher among respondents under the age of 40, women, and persons who are employed. Another measure reveals that nearly one-half the respondents use their free time to "get things done" [as opposed to relaxing]--this proportion is higher among men and, again, among those who are employed. Such patterns of time allocation may be attributable to role overload. In addition, approximately 28% of the married women interviewed "wished their husbands would give them more help with the household chores." This proportion is somewhat higher among women under the age of 40 and woman who are employed. Dividing household tasks more evenly is one way in which role overload created by excessive demands of family members can be alleviated.

The usefulness of specifying such intervening constructs as role overload was demonstrated recently by Reilly (1982). Identifying commitments of time other than employment which lead to role conflict and overload is an important area for future research. Also important to examine are the steps consumers take to alleviate the disequilibrium which arises. Convenience orientation is likelY to be only one of the responses.


This paper has examined a wide array of measures which may be regarded as antecedents and consequences of time use. Though some of the measures, e.g., roles, satisfaction, etc., have been examined in other contexts, few of them have been discussed or analyzed in conjunction with time use. and yet, as argued above, these constructs are significant from a theoretical and practical viewpoint.

Existing models of time allocation may be effectively extended by incorporating the measures proposed. Specifying antecedents as outlined above is likely to lead to more realistic models and a clearer understanding of the complex phenomenon of time use. Examining more closely the consequences of times use should demonstrate the impact of time expenditures on facets of consumer behavior that are of interest to researchers and practitioners alike. We hope that the current paper stimulates research in both of these directions.


This paper has presented a set of constructs, illustrative measures, and preliminary evidence in order to extend research on time use beyond existing boundaries. It is limited in some important ways. First, the conclusions reported herein are tentative, limited by the method of analysis. However, they should aid in explicating the conceptual arguments presented above. In addition, the illustrative measures are drawn from a secondary data source. These measures are not the only ones which might be employed to operationalize the constructs discussed; they are certainly not the best ones.

Future research will hopefully consider antecedents and consequences of time use similar to those outlined above. Hypotheses proposed in this paper may guide such research. Since previous analyses have focused largely on demographic and economic variables, however, considerable work is required to adequately measure the constructs discussed above. With such measures, the complex relationships within a comprehensive model of time use can be more fully identified. Thus, future research related to both measurement and testing of antecedents and consequences of time use appears to hold much promise.




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Philip E. Hendrix, Emory University


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 11 | 1984

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