I’m single and have no kids. Occasionally, married parents who do not know me very well ask me how I spend my time. In a way, I like that question. Because I love my work (doing research and reading and writing and speaking about single life), I enjoy just about everything I do with my time. But when married parents ask, sometimes they are asking in a tone of bewilderment, as if they can’t figure out what a person would do all day and night without a spouse or children.

Now we know. The Bureau of Labor Statistics regularly conducts its American Time Use Survey, and the results from last year, 2016, were recently released. The findings for marital status were not as detailed as I would have liked. Only two marital statuses were compared: married people living with their spouse, and everyone else. The category of people who are not married includes divorced, widowed, and separated people, as well as lifelong single people. Both marital status categories (married and unmarried) averaged over the people who were parents and those who were not.

Participants were 10,500 people, 15 and older, selected from a nationally representative sample of households. Interviews were conducted using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing. Participants were asked to report what they did all day long on the previous day. For each activity they described, they indicated how much time they spent on that activity.

Different Ways of Spending Time: The Categories Included in the Study

Here are the 12 different ways of spending time assessed in the American Time Use Survey:

#1 Educational activities: taking classes, doing research and homework, and for high school students, doing extracurricular activities.

#2 Household chores: housework, cooking, taking care of the lawn and garden, doing repairs, etc.

#3 Sleeping and personal care: sleeping, bathing, dressing, etc.

#4 Work: work and other activities relevant to work, regardless of where the activities take place.

#5 Sports and leisure: Playing and watching sports, exercise, recreation, socializing, communicating, reading, watching TV, playing games, using the computer for fun, relaxing or thinking, and listening to music.

#6 Eating and drinking: All time spent eating or drinking (except as a work-related activity), whether at home or elsewhere.

#7 Caring for and helping household members: doing something that helps, or helps care for, a specific person who is a member of your household, including both children and adults.

#8 Caring for and helping non-household members

#9 Purchasing goods and services: time spent on any purchases of consumer goods or professional or personal care services, whether online, by phone, or in person.

#10 Telephone calls, mail, e-mail, texting

#11 Organizational, civic, and religious activities: volunteering, doing your civic duty (e.g., jury duty), and participating in religious or spiritual activities.

#12 Other activities: activities not covered by other categories.

See if you can guess how the married and unmarried people differed in the amount of time they spent on these categories. In my next post, I’ll tell you what the results really did show. (Here it is.)

Photo by Seth W.