Thursday, November 10, 2011

Search Challenge (November 9, 2011): How do people spend their time?

It might not look like much, but this is a compelling graphic: 
It's a chart of how people in the US spend their time during an average day. 

Can you figure out how people spend their time?  You can probably guess what the big orange and big blue segments are, but what makes up the other 30% of the day?  

This question came about from a simple discussion at work the other day.  I know that I spend about 2.5 hours each day just doing my email.  Was that normal?  Is it a high number?  A low number?  

So if you take the US as a whole (statistically speaking), can you figure out how normal people spend each day? 

The best solution here is to be able to create a chart something like this one (although I'll show a different graphic tomorrow).  You need to find data you believe--a source that's credible, or at least one that uses some kind of data-gathering mechanism that you believe.

Be sure to tell us how you found your data and why you believe it.   

Search on! 


  1. Searched "how normal people spend each day?"

    Department of labor, you must be able to trust it, right?

  2. I googled "how an average us citizen spends time" (not in those quotations of course!)

    The first result is from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Time Use Survey, Charts Section
    In their 2011 news releases depicting 2010 results I have found what we are looking for

    This is something governmental, consistent and methodological with in depth analysis so I believe this.

  3. Googling
    hours spent american statistics

    got me to
    which has pointers to tables for 2010 statistics divided in lots of ways.

    Table 12 seems to be the one you want, with sleeping and watching TV as the two biggest categories.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics specialize in data like this and don't have any particular political axe to grind.

  4. I started off by googling "average American day" and one of the first results was the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) which is "sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and conducted by the Census Bureau." The detailed/exhausting documentation of the methodology and analysis more than satisfied my bullshit detector:( To launch a statistically controlled study, no other organization has better access or means than the U.S. Census Bureau to execute such research.
    I examined the most recent annual report from 2010, focusing on the first column in Table 1-- "Time spent in primary activities, average hours per day." (See This seemed to be most analogous to question at hand. I then considered the ATUS categories and figures in light of my own estimates based on the pie chart. Aside from human error, I found that the ATUS categories limiting because they account only for the "primary activity" and cannot account for overlapping activities. For instance, does playing with your children count as "caring for others" or "leisure time"? What about folding laundry while watching TV? Perhaps an additional Venn Diagram would be apropos for a nation of multitaskers.

  5. The OECD Society at a Glance report puts the numbers in an international context, which can be handy. =) I've been tracking and visualizing my time, so I'm really interested in stats like this. =)

  6. Bigger green slice inside the 30% = commuting?