How do Americans Spend Their Time? — A brief visualization at the American Time Use Survey

American Time Use Survey, ATUS, is multi-year survey, conducted by US Bureau of Labor Statistics, on the subject of time allocation by Americans. I got the dataset from and have found something I think interesting and would like to share here.


From this dataset, I am hoping to get a brief understanding on daily time spending. Which activities have increased/decreased in time spending from the past years? What do people enjoy more? Are there any difference in time spending regarding gender, age, education level, geographical location, etc? These questions seem so interesting and the answer is already lying in the dataset, waiting to be found.

Tools involved:

  • R: data pre-process, ggplots
  • Tableau: part of the data visualization

Looking from the all the past years

The data ranges from 2003 to 2015. Let’s first look from the big picture. Below is the number of respondents by gender.

Number of Respondents from 2003 to 2015 by gender

To have a brief look at the data, we are first interested at the time giants.

Top 5 Activities Americans Spend most time on

Of, sleeping, our most mighty activity, makes itself the top all over these years, with a slightly increase despite the growing number of other activities.

Well, let’s leave the champion aside and see the remaining four.

There’s a noticeable trend that, with all other activities(socializing, working eating & drinking) dropping, time spent on watching TV/movies is significantly rising. At first it surprises me because I had an impression that the internet has actually grabbed most eyeballs, leaving TV/movies idle. But in fact, I was wrong. TV and movies have been greatly increasing as an option when people are seeking time to relax. The power of Hollywood, broadcasting, and other entertainment production did, does and will never disappoint us.

As there are around 430 activities surveyed, it’s not possible to display all the time spent statistics in such a brief article. Here I will only share some insights I find interesting and worth noticing.

  • Using services has been a tremendous increase.

By looking at the most increased time activities, we have identified some that have experienced incredible increase.

Service industry is the typical example. Time spent on using services has been a big increase during the past years.

  • YOGA rocks!
Time Spent on YOGA

Yoga, a famous and convenient indoor activity, has been a heated fashion these years and the survey data has confirmed its popularity. Even though women account for the most increase in time, men also show their growing spending in YOGA activities.

  • Religious activities

The general trends show that time spent on participation in religious practices has grown. Let’s see a deeper breakdown.

By gender:

And by age group:

It is interesting to see that general time spent on religious practices is constantly growing, instead of a up and down trends. And it becomes more interesting to see that female and older people are the two main forces who pushes up this trend.


So far this is just a very brief look at the data (Yes indeed it’s very simple now). But there are even more to discover, such as geographical difference, relationship between variables, etc. And I am sure it will be very insightful.