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Americans' Use of Time, 1985 (ICPSR 9875)

Principal Investigator(s): Robinson, John, University of Maryland. Survey Research Center


For this data collection, respondents were asked to record in single-day time diaries each activity they engaged in over a 24-hour period. The time diary data were gathered through three different data collection methods: mail-back, telephone, and personal interviews. Respondents were instructed to describe in the diaries when the activity began, the time the activity ended, where it occurred, and who was present when the activity took place. Demographic variables include household type, respondent's sex, marital status, age, educational level, occupation, and work hours, number of children in the household under 5 and 18 years of age, and household income. Other variables focus on total work time, total time for meals at work, total minutes at work engaged in nonwork activities, total work break in minutes, and total time traveling to and from work. Data are also provided on total time spent on meal preparation and cleanup, housecleaning, outdoor chores, laundry, ironing, clothes care, home repair, baby care, child care, shopping for food, and traveling to and from food shopping. Respondents also reported total time spent on personal care, medical care, family financial activities, and sleeping, as well as time spent attending school, classes, seminars, special interest group meetings, religious meetings, sports events, and other social activities.

Series: Americans' Use of Time Series

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Study Description


Robinson, John. Americans' Use of Time, 1985. ICPSR09875-v2. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 1997. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR09875.v2

Persistent URL: https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR09875.v2

Export Citation:

  • RIS (generic format for RefWorks, EndNote, etc.)
  • EndNote XML (EndNote X4.0.1 or higher)


This study was funded by:

  • National Science Foundation (SES8514539)
  • AT&T

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    family life, family work relationship, housework, leisure, lifestyles, quality of life, recreation, social interaction, social life, time utilization, work

Geographic Coverage:    United States

Time Period:   

  • 1985

Universe:    Adults 18 years or older living in houses with telephones in the contiguous United States.

Data Type(s):    survey data

Data Collection Notes:

The codebook is provided as a Portable Document Format (PDF) file. The PDF file format was developed by Adobe Systems Incorporated and can be accessed using PDF reader software, such as the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Information on how to obtain a copy of the Acrobat Reader is provided through the ICPSR Website on the Internet.


Sample:    The data for the main (mail-back) study were collected from a sample of Americans who were first contacted by telephone, using a Waksberg-Mitofsky two-stage random-digit dial design. All members of the participating households aged 12 and over were sent mail-back diaries. A total of 2,921 mail-back diaries were completed and returned by adults aged 18 and over. The telephone survey consisted of a random sample of the adults who were contacted in the first phase of the random-digit dial sample. A total of 1,210 telephone diaries were completed by this group. Thirdly, a separate national sample of 808 diaries were collected through personal in-home interviews. This sample was drawn from a subset of 20 primary sampling units (PSUs) drawn at random from the continuing national samples of the Institute for Survey Research at Temple University in Philadelphia. That stratified sample was further stratified and subjected to "controlled selection" to ensure that the subset of 20 PSUs retained sufficient representation by rural-urban-suburban character within each of the four regions of the country. Weights are included to adjust the three different samples so that the proportion of full-time working males and females matches 1985 Census Bureau figures. In addition, males were weighted slightly up and females slightly down to correct for the slight underrepresentation of male respondents. The weights also control for day of the week.

Data Source:

mail-back, telephone, and personal interview diaries


Original ICPSR Release:   1993-04-09

Version History:

  • 1997-11-18 In the codebook, column locations for Record 2 have been corrected and a methodological section has been added. In addition, the codebook is now available as a PDF file, and SAS data definition statements have been added to the collection.

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