Tough Economic Times Hard on Families — and May Be Hard on future Family Research

The American Time Use Survey records how work and family have changed and allows family social scientists to track how they adapt to the current gas, food, and housing crises. Our descendants may need this data, but may not have it.

In mid June, Congress will re-consider funding for the ATUS; It is not currently in the President’s proposed budget.

Some facts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Mothers do more paid work — 14 hours more — than they did 40 years ago. They do less housework — exactly 14 hours fewer — too. But they do 4 hours more of childcare than in the past. How do we know? Suzanne Bianchi, University of Maryland sociologist, and her colleagues used the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), a time diary study that has been collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics since 2003.
Dads are stepping up in new ways too. Men have steadily increased their participation in housework and child care over the past 30 years. And contrary to claims of some earlier studies, dads who work less than full-time don’t use their extra time just to watch TV. Part-time worker dads do more housework (about an hour more) than full-time worker dads, and about 40 minutes more childcare. We know about these changes thanks to forthcoming work from Liana Sayer (Ohio State University) and Sanjiv Gupta (University of Massachusetts at Amherst) in which they analyzed the 2003-2005 ATUS.
But if women have given up 14 hours a week of housework and taken on 14 more hours of paid work, what else have they given up to put in 4 more hours of childcare? Here the news may be less rosy. It appears that social bonding with spouse, kin, and friends is being sacrificed to the higher standards for time with children. Bianchi and colleagues’ analysis of the ATUS reveals that, compared to 20 years ago, married working moms now spend less time with their spouse — while single moms spend less time with friends and family.

Research can help record these changes
These facts illustrate the on-going revolution in how Americans spend their time — what they do at work, how men and women organize family schedules, and how children and teens spend their days. As journal and diary keeping are no longer in vogue—and blogs can hardly be considered a replacement—such studies will be how our descendants learn about us and our times.

For more information on ATUS visit and and

The Council on Contemporary Families, based at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is a non-profit, non-partisan association of prominent family researchers and clinicians whose aim is to make accessible to the press and public recent research on family formation, marriage, divorce, childhood and family diversity.

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About Libbi

Writer for 30 years. Genealogy a hobby for about 40 years. Yes, I'm in my 50's, I learned about genealogy at my mother's knee!
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