Gender Differences in Experiencing US Daily Life


The American Time-Use Survey (ATUS), conducted by the US Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has been collecting data on how Americans spend their time since 2003, using the method of the daily time diary. In these diaries, survey respondents are asked to recall all of their activities across the previous 24 hours. In 2010, the ATUS began supplementing these simple activity accounts with ratings on five psychological states (sad, tired, stress, pain and happy) from a Social Well-Being (SWB) index designed to capture how these respondents feel as they engage in these daily activities. Thus, this ATUS study basically provides a continuous national monitor of Americans’ everyday subjective quality of life (QOL)—and in “real time” as personally experienced by respondents. Analysis of these 2010-12 ATUS SWB ratings from more than 12,000 Americans aged 15 and older reveal that women score significantly higher than men on all five factors, even though only one of the adjectives (happy) was in the positive direction. Thus, US women described their daily activities as more stressful, tiring, sad and painful, but at the same time also describing their activities as making them feel happier (suggesting that women see their lives as more engaging, intense or energizing). In order to control for this gender difference, a simple scale was derived from two of the items that conveyed basically the same emotional state, namely happy and sad. When these ratings on two items were paired, virtually no gender difference was found; nor were many gender differences found when they rated these feelings on the same activity. However, there were dramatic subjective differences across activities that were largely shared by both men and women, with child play, religious, volunteer and fitness activities rated near the top of enjoyment and with medical, housework and work activities nearer the bottom. These results seem generally consistent with enjoyment ratings in earlier national time-use surveys.

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Robinson, J. (2014). Gender Differences in Experiencing US Daily Life. Psychology, 5, 581-586. doi: 10.4236/psych.2014.56068.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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