The American Time Use Survey is a treasure trove of data for understanding how Americans spend their days. The survey is essentially a national diary of how we work, play, sleep and even groom ourselves. The data can be parsed at the state level too. Below are 10 maps showing the sometimes surprising regional variation in American time use.
A couple things to understand about the BLS data. The first is that "average time per day" spent on any given activity is a bit of a statistical construct. "Estimates are an average across all persons in the given population, whether or not they did the activity," the BLS explains.
The second is that the survey is conducted among all Americans age 15 and up, so these aggregate numbers hide a lot of demographic variation. This might be most evident in the sleep numbers -- many teenagers report getting nearly 10 hours of sleep on any given night, which partially explains why the 8+ average hours of sleep per state might seem wildly off-base to a normal person.
Finally, to get state-by-state numbers the BLS combines samples from the most recent five years of surveys, from 2009 to 2013. But in some cases there still isn't a sufficient sample for a given state and time category. In these cases the states are greyed out on the map.
Those caveats aside, let's get to the numbers.
Alabama and Mississippi are the nation's sleep capitals, averaging 9+ hours each
The average Mississippi resident gets 40 minutes more sleep per day than the average resident of Wisconsin, the state getting the least sleep. That's about 30 full 8-hour nights more sleep over the course of a year.
Vermonters are not overly concerned with personal grooming.
When it comes to time spent on personal grooming activities -- washing, dressing and generally getting one's act together for the day -- Vermont is a notable outlier. Vermonters' 28 daily minutes of grooming is a full 10 minutes fewer than the 50-state average, and 17 minutes fewer than the 45 minutes people spend in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina. In general, Southern states spend more time keeping up personal appearances than Northern ones, although New York, with its 43 minutes of primping time, is an exception to this rule.
New York and New Jersey spend the most time commuting.
Looking only at respondents with jobs, New Yorkers and Jerseyites report the most time on travel related to work -- more than an hour a day for each state. Workers in Oregon, Alaska and the Dakotas spend about half that much time.
North Dakota employees work the longest days.
The average employed North Dakotan reports spending 8 hours and 16 minutes at work each day. This is probably related to that state's Bakken Shale boom and the influx of petroleum industry jobs, where armies of mostly male workers spend long hours on the job site and retire to "man camps" in the evening. On the flipside Maine's low reported working time -- 6 hours and 54 minutes -- may be related to a preponderance of seasonal and temporary jobs in the tourism industry in that state. They don't call it "Vacationland" for nothing.
High Plains states keep the tidiest houses
Or at least, they report the most time spent on housework, a category which includes mostly housecleaning and laundry. On the other hand, Hawaiians report spending only 26 minutes a day on home chores. Who wants to scrub the tub when you live in an island paradise?
Religion: No surprises here.
Two words: The South. Southerners are more likely to say religion is "very important" in their lives than people from any other region, so it's no surprise that they report spending more time per day on religious activities. Utah, with its large Mormon population, also stands out. At the profane end of the spiritual spectrum you have Rhode Island, whose residents report averaging only two minutes per day in spiritual activities, or roughly an eighth of the time spent by people in Louisiana.
Utah has little time for leisure.
Industrious Utah residents report spending only 4 hours and 27 minutes in leisure activities daily. Contrast this with wild and wonderful West Virginia, where people spend over 6 hours a day engaged in leisure. In general, high desert states -- Utah, Colorado and Wyoming -- report less leisure time than everyone else.
Differences in leisure time are due largely to differences in TV watching.
Nearly the entire leisure time difference between Utah and West Virginia can be explained by TV viewing habits in those states -- West Virginians spend about 90 more minutes a day glued to the tube than Utah residents. Over the course of a year that works out to difference of 68 8-hour workdays -- let that one sink in.
The High Plains are bookworm country.
What better activity to do in a clean house than read a book? North Dakotans spend nearly 30 minutes a day reading, more than twice the average of most Southern states.
But Southerners are the most thoughtful.
Southerners spend the most time relaxing and thinking, which may be an extension of the time they spend on religious and spiritual activities. In either case, all that relaxing and praying might contribute to an overall peace of mind, which could explain why Southerners sleep so much longer than people in other states. And with that, we've come full circle.
Use the table below if you want the exact values, in hours:minutes, for your state. Asterisks indicate data unavailable due to small sample size.
|State||Sleeping||Personal grooming||Housework||Working||Commuting||Religious activities||Leisure||Thinking and relaxing||Watching television||Reading||Using the computer|
|District of Columbia||8:25||0:40||0:25||7:34||1:03||0:09||5:17||*||2:44||0:15||0:16|