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June 2005, Vol. 128, No. 6
Developing the American Time Use Survey activity classification system
Kristina J. Shelley
The American Time Use Survey (ATUS) was officially added to the Federal Government’s list of statistical surveys when it received approval and funding in December 2000. The roots of the survey had taken hold nearly 10 years earlier when a Congressional bill, the "Unremunerated Work Act of 1991," prompted the Bureau of Labor Statistics to investigate ways of measuring unpaid work.1 This examination evolved into an interest in measuring time allocation of individuals, which is generally the starting point for estimating the value of nonmarket production.
Thus, in 1998, a BLS working group was formed and tasked with examining the feasibility of collecting time-use data and then developing a detailed plan for doing so. By December 2000, significant progress had been made toward laying the groundwork for the survey, which was scheduled to be launched in January 2003. One of the most important undertakings in this process was the design of an activity classification scheme, or coding lexicon, for categorizing the activities that survey respondents report during the time-diary portion of the interview.
This article briefly discusses the processes that created both an ATUS activity coding lexicon and activity coding operations procedures. It also briefly describes the evolution of the major activity categories in the coding lexicon. Finally, it discusses how activities in the coding lexicon were combined so that BLS could produce analytically meaningful tables for publication.
This excerpt is from an article published in the June 2005 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 For a detailed description of the evolution of ATUS, see Diane Herz and Michael Horrigan, "Planning, designing, and executing the BLS American Time Use Survey" Monthly Labor Review, October 2004, pp. 3–19.
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