The estimates in this release are from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS). The ATUS,
which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),
is a continuous survey about how individuals age 15 and over spend their time. In the
2-year period of 2011-12, nearly 25,000 individuals were interviewed for the ATUS; of
these, approximately 3,900 individuals were identified as eldercare providers. Data
for the combined years of 2011-12 were used to facilitate a more in-depth analysis of
Information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals
upon request. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200; Federal Relay Service: (800) 877-8339.
ATUS sample households are chosen from the households that completed their
eighth (final) interview for the Current Population Survey (CPS), the nationís
monthly household labor force survey. ATUS sample households are selected to ensure
that estimates will be nationally representative of the civilian noninstitutional
population. One individual age 15 or over is randomly chosen from each sampled
household. This person is interviewed by telephone once about his or her activities
on the day before the interview.
All ATUS interviews are conducted using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing.
Procedures are in place to collect information from the small number of households
that did not provide a telephone number during the CPS interview.
ATUS designated persons are preassigned a day of the week about which to report.
Preassignment is designed to reduce variability in response rates across the week
and to allow oversampling of weekend days so that accurate weekend day measures can
be developed. Interviews occur on the day following the assigned day. For example,
a person assigned to report about a Monday would be contacted on the following
Tuesday. Ten percent of designated persons are assigned to report about each of the
five weekdays. Twenty-five percent are assigned to report about each weekend day.
Households are called for up to 8 consecutive weeks (for example, 8 Tuesdays) in
order to secure an interview.
About the questionnaire
In the time diary portion of the ATUS interview, survey respondents sequentially
report activities they did between 4 a.m. on the day before the interview until 4 a.m.
on the day of the interview. For each activity, respondents are asked how long the
activity lasted. If respondents report doing more than one activity at a time, they
are asked to identify which one was their main (primary) activity. After completing
the time diary, interviewers ask additional questions, including questions to identify
eldercare providers and activities done as eldercare. Questions on eldercare were
added to the survey in 2011.
After completing the interview, primary activity descriptions are assigned a single
6-digit code using the ATUS Coding Lexicon. The 3-tier coding system consists of 17
major activity categories, each with multiple second- and third-tier subcategories.
These coding lexicon categories are then combined into composite categories for
publication. Descriptions of categories shown in this release can be found in the
Activity definitions section of this Technical Note. The ATUS Coding Lexicons can be
accessed at www.bls.gov/tus/lexicons.htm.
Concepts and definitions
Average day. The average day measure reflects an average distribution across all
persons in the reference population and all days of the week.
Average hours per day. The average number of hours spent in a 24- hour day (between
4 a.m. on the diary day and 4 a.m. on the interview day) doing a specified activity.
--Average hours per day, population. The average number of hours per day is computed
using all responses from a given population, including those of respondents who
did not do a particular activity on their diary day. These estimates reflect how
many population members engaged in an activity and the amount of time they spent
--Average hours per day, persons who did the activity. The average number of hours
per day is computed using only responses from those who engaged in a particular
activity on their diary day.
Condition related to aging. An ongoing ailment or physical or emotional limitation
that typically affects older people, such as becoming more frail; having difficulty
seeing, hearing, or physically moving; becoming more forgetful; tiring more quickly;
or having specific medical ailments that are more common among older adults. It also
refers to existing conditions that become progressively worse as one ages.
Diary day. The diary day is the day about which the respondent reports. For example,
the diary day of a respondent interviewed on Tuesday is Monday.
Eldercare. Eldercare is providing unpaid care or assistance to an individual who
needed help because of a condition related to aging. This care can be provided by a
family member or non-family member. Care can be provided in the recipientís home, the
providerís home, or a care facility, such as in a nursing home.
Eldercare can involve a range of care activities, such as assisting with grooming
and feeding, preparing meals, arranging medical care, and providing transportation.
Eldercare also can involve providing companionship or being available to assist when
help is needed, and thus it can be associated with nearly any activity.
Estimates of the time spent providing eldercare are derived by summing the durations
of activities during which respondents provided care or assistance for an adult who
needed help because of a condition related to aging. These estimates never include
times the respondent reported sleeping, grooming, or engaging in personal care services.
Eldercare provider. An individual who provided eldercare more than one time in the
3 to 4 months prior to the interview day. The time frame varies slightly by respondent
because the question asks about care provided between the first day of a given reference
month and the interview day. Estimates are restricted to eldercare providers caring for
at least one person age 65 or older.
--Employed. All persons who, at any time during the 7 days prior to the interview:
1) Did any work at all as paid employees; worked in their own business, profession,
or on their own farm; or usually worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in a
family member's business; or
2) Were not working but had jobs or businesses from which they were temporarily
absent due to illness, bad weather, vacation, childcare problems, labor-
management disputes, maternity or paternity leave, job training, or other
family or personal reasons, whether or not they were paid for the time off or
were seeking other jobs.
--Employed full time. Full-time workers are those who usually worked 35 hours or
more per week at all jobs combined.
--Employed part time. Part-time workers are those who usually worked fewer than
35 hours per week at all jobs combined.
--Not employed. Persons are not employed if they do not meet the conditions for
employment. The not employed include those classified as unemployed as well as
those classified as not in the labor force (using CPS definitions).
Household children. Household children are children under age 18 residing in the
household of the ATUS respondent.
Primary activity. A primary activity is the main activity a respondent was doing at
a specified time.
Weekday, weekend, and holiday estimates. Estimates for weekdays are an average of
reports about Monday through Friday. Estimates for weekend days and holidays are an
average of reports about Saturdays, Sundays, and the following holidays: New Yearís Day,
Easter, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
In 2011, the telephone call center was closed the day after Christmas Day, so data were
not collected about this holiday. Data were not collected about New Yearís Day in 2012.
The following definitions describe the activities associated with eldercare appearing
in this report. These are diary activities that survey respondents identified as ones
during which they had provided care or assistance for an adult who needed help because
of a condition related to aging.
Eating and drinking. All time spent eating or drinking, except eating and drinking
done as part of a work or volunteer activity, is classified here.
Household activities. Household activities are those done by persons to maintain
their households. These include housework; cooking; lawn and garden care; pet care;
vehicle maintenance and repair; home maintenance, repair, decoration, and renovation;
and household management and organizational activities. Food preparation, whether or
not reported as done specifically for another household member, is always classified
as a household activity unless it was done as a volunteer, work, or income-generating
Purchasing goods and services. This category includes the time spent obtaining,
receiving, and purchasing consumer goods, professional services, household services,
and government services. Consumer purchases include most purchases and rentals of
consumer goods. Professional services refer to financial services and banking, legal
services, medical and adult care services, real estate services, and veterinary
services. Household services include housecleaning; cooking; lawn care and landscaping;
pet care; tailoring, laundering, and dry cleaning; vehicle maintenance and repairs;
and home repairs, maintenance, and construction. This category also captures the time
spent obtaining government services--such as applying for food stamps--and purchasing
government-required licenses or paying fines or fees.
Caring for and helping household members. Time spent doing activities to care for
members of the household, regardless of relationship to the respondent or the physical
or mental health status of the person being helped, is classified here. This category
includes a range of activities done to benefit members of households, such as providing
physical and medical care or obtaining medical services.
Caring for and helping nonhousehold members. Caring for and helping nonhousehold
members includes activities persons do to care for or help those who do not live with
them. When done for or through an organization, time spent helping nonhousehold members
is classified as volunteering, rather than as helping nonhousehold members.
Working and work-related activities. This category includes time spent working,
doing activities as part of one's job, engaging in income-generating activities (not
as part of one's job), and job search activities.
Organizational, civic, and religious activities. This category captures time spent
volunteering for or through an organization, performing civic obligations, and
participating in religious and spiritual activities.
Leisure and sports. The leisure and sports category includes sports, exercise,
and recreation; socializing and communicating; and other leisure activities. Sports,
exercise, and recreation activities include participating in--as well as attending or
watching--sports, exercise, and recreational activities. Socializing and communicating
includes face-to-face social communication and hosting or attending social functions.
Leisure activities include watching television; reading; relaxing or thinking; playing
computer, board, or card games; using a computer or the Internet for personal interest;
playing or listening to music; and other activities, such as attending arts, cultural,
and entertainment events.
Telephone calls, mail, and e-mail. This category captures telephone communication
and handling household or personal mail or e-mail.
Traveling. This category includes all travel, regardless of mode or purpose, as
well as security procedures related to traveling.
Other activities, not elsewhere classified. This is a residual category intended
to capture activities not elsewhere classified in each table. These might be ambiguous
activities that could not be coded, missing activities, or activities that occurred
very infrequently. Missing activities result when respondents do not remember what
they did for a period of time, or when they consider an activity too private or
personal to report. This category includes a small amount of time that was spent in
educational activities, as no educational activities category appears in the tables.
Processing and estimation
After ATUS data are collected, they go through an editing and imputation procedure.
Responses to CPS questions that are re-asked in the ATUS go through the regular CPS
edit and imputation procedures. Some item nonresponses for questions unique to the
ATUS also are imputed.
ATUS records are weighted quarterly to reduce bias in the estimates due to
differences in sampling and response rates across subpopulations and days of the
week. Specifically, the data are weighted to ensure the following:
--Weekdays represent about 5/7 of the weighted data, and weekend days represent
about 2/7 of the weighted data for the population as a whole. The actual
proportions depend on the number of weekdays and weekend days in a given
--The sum of the weights is equal to the number of person-days in the quarter
for the population as a whole and for selected subpopulations (the population
times the number of days in the quarter).
Reliability of the estimates
Statistics based on the ATUS are subject to both sampling and nonsampling error.
When a sample, rather than the entire population, is surveyed, estimates differ from
the true population values they represent. The component of this difference that
occurs because samples differ by chance is known as sampling error, and its
variability is measured by the standard error of the estimate.
Sample estimates from a given survey design are unbiased when an average of the
estimates from all possible samples would yield, hypothetically, the true population
value. In this case, the sample estimate and its standard error can be used to
construct approximate confidence intervals, or ranges of values that include the
true population value with known probabilities. If the process of selecting a
sample from the population were repeated many times, an estimate made from each
sample, and a suitable estimate of its standard error calculated for each sample,
then approximately 90 percent of the intervals from 1.645 standard errors below
the estimate to 1.645 standard errors above the estimate would include the true
population value. BLS analyses are generally conducted at the 90-percent level of
The ATUS data also are affected by nonsampling error, which is the average
difference between population and sample values for samples generated by a given
process. Nonsampling error can occur for many reasons, including the failure to
sample a segment of the population, inability to obtain information for all
respondents in the sample, inability or unwillingness of respondents to provide
correct information, and errors made in the collection or processing of the data.
Errors also could occur if non-response is correlated with time use.
Nonsampling error and eldercare. Eldercare done for a spouse or partner may be
underreported, especially when the care provided has only recently become necessary.
For example, a survey respondent who has always prepared the family dinner may not
view cooking as an eldercare activity; if her husband is no longer capable of
preparing his own meals, though, he depends on this assistance and it meets the
definition of eldercare.
Additionally, nonsampling error affects data on the frequency of care. Survey
respondents were asked how often they provided eldercare in recent months and
whether they provided eldercare on the diary day. Information about care provided
on the diary day was used to calculate daily participation rates. There are some
inconsistencies between the reported frequency of care and the actual provision of
eldercare on an average day. For example, in 2011-12, only 64 percent of eldercare
providers who self-reported providing care "daily" actually provided eldercare on
an average day. This discrepancy reflects some respondentsí choice of "daily"
rather than "several times a week" or another option to best describe their
eldercare frequency, even while acknowledging they had not provided care on the
ATUS publication standards
Estimates of average hours per day and participation rates are not published
unless there are a minimum number of respondents representing the given population.
Additional publication criteria are applied that include the number of respondents
who reported doing a specified activity and the standard error or coefficient of
variation for the estimate. Estimates that are considered "close to zero" or that
round to 0.00, are published as approximately zero or "~0." For a detailed
description of the statistical reliability criteria necessary for publication,
please contact ATUS staff at ATUSinfo@bls.gov.