In my previous post, I described the American Time Use Survey, including the characteristics of the participants and the 12 kinds of activities that were assessed. I invited you to see if you could guess how married and unmarried people differ in how they spend their time.

Now you can compare your predictions with the actual findings.

The Findings:

Differences in How Married People and Unmarried People Spend their Time

For each of the 12 categories, I calculated the difference in the average number of minutes per day spent by the married people and the unmarried people. Below are the activities for which one group spent 10 minutes or more per day than the other.

1 The biggest difference in how married and unmarried people spend their time is for educational activities. On the average, every day, people who are not married spend 49 minutes more than married people do pursuing their education.

2 A difference almost that big occurred for one of the activities that married people spend more time on than unmarried people do. Married people spend an average of 42 minutes more, every day, than people who are not married on household chores.

3 People who are not married spend an average of 40 minutes more per day on sleeping and personal care.

4 The category of caring for and helping other people within the household has to show that married people do more of that, because about 35 million single people in the U.S. live alone. They don’t have anyone else in their household they could be helping. On the average, married people spend 29 minutes more per day helping other people in their household.

5 Married people spend an average of 28 minutes more per day working than people who are not married. A previous study that only included men also showed that married men spend more time working than single men, but they spend less time than single men at work-related activities that would benefit people beyond their immediate families. For example, married men participate less often in professional societies, unions, and farm organizations.

6 People who are not married, relative to married people, spend 28 minutes more per day on sports and leisure.

7 Of the 12 categories, there is only one more for which married and unmarried people differ by at least 10 minutes a day. Married people spend an average of 10 minutes more per day eating and drinking.

(One thing to keep in mind about these findings: Usually, when researchers compare people of different marital statuses, they try to control statistically for other ways the married and unmarried could differ, such as their age or income. Essentially, they compare married and unmarried people of the same age or the same income, so any differences in marital status are not just due to those other ways that the groups could differ. It does not appear that the results were analyzed in that way in Time Use report, so it is possible that some of the differences in how married and unmarried people spend their time are more about something else, such as age or income.)

Even though there are some clear differences in how married and unmarried people spend their time, there are also some striking similarities. Most notably, the rank orderings of the top five categories for both groups are exactly the same.

  1. Both groups spend the most time on sleeping and personal care.
  2. After sleeping and personal care, both groups spend the most time on sports and leisure.
  3. Ranking third for both groups is work. Both married and unmarried people spend more time working than doing anything else except sleeping and personal care, and sports and leisure.
  4. In fourth place for both groups is household chores.
  5. Finally, in fifth place for both groups is eating and drinking.

Photo by English106