The Washington Post

How the average American day has changed over the past decade

The average American sleeps 8.7 hours and watches 2.8 hours of TV each day. The ones who are employed put in an average 7.6 working hours a day.

Those are some of the findings of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s American Time Use survey, which came out  Wednesday. There were some other interesting tidbits — workers with children spend about 4.5 hours on leisure activities daily, an hour less than their childless peers — but the portrait it paints is largely unchanged. Every year, BLS releases that rich set of data on how Americans spend time across a number of activities, sliced up in a number of different ways, but the basic takeaway is always the same: We spend most of our time working, sleeping and relaxing. (Sleep is a subcategory of “personal care activities” in the chart below.)


The average American day, 2013. (Niraj Chokshi)

So we decided to reach back a little further to see how Americans’ habits differed in 2013 from 2003, a time before the iPhone, YouTube, Twitter and what was at its launch called The Facebook. To be honest, not very much has changed.

Relatively, some changes were large. Americans who did homework or researched spent nearly 25 percent more time on those activities. Those who participated in organized religious or spiritual activities were spending 9 percent less time on that. And Americans who cared for or helped adults not in their household were spending 12 percent less time doing so in 2013 than 2003.

But in absolute terms, most of the differences were slight. The Americans doing homework or researching spent 3.1 hours a day doing so last year, up from 2.5 hours in 2003. The decline in time spent on religious or spiritual activities equates to a difference of just under 10 minutes. And the Americans caring for non-household adults spent 7.2 minutes less doing so last year from the decade before.

Here’s a look at how some selected activities have changed over the past decade:

Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
Republicans debated Saturday night. The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Dan Balz says...
Rarely has the division between Trump and party elites been more apparent. Trump trashed one of the most revered families in Republican politics and made a bet that standing his ground is better than backing down. Drawing boos from the audience, Trump did not flinch. But whether he will be punished or rewarded by voters was the unanswerable question.
GOP candidates react to Justice Scalia's death
Quoted
I don't know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn't speak Spanish.
Sen. Marco Rubio, attacking Sen. Ted Cruz in Saturday night's very heated GOP debate in South Carolina. Soon after, Cruz went on a tirade in Spanish.
The Fix asks The State's political reporter where the most important region of the state is.
The State's Andy Shain says he could talk about Charleston, which represents a little bit of everything the state has to offer from evangelicals to libertarians, and where Ted Cruz is raising more money than anywhere else. In a twist, Marco Rubio is drawing strong financial support from more socially conservative Upstate. That said, Donald Trump is bursting all the conventional wisdom in the state. So maybe the better answer to this question is, "Wherever Trump is."
Past South Carolina GOP primary winners
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the first state in the South to vote, where he faces rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

March 6: Democratic debate

on CNN, in Flint, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.