We Work Before We Play

NEW YORK , N.Y. – December 9, 2013 – The year’s end is fast approaching. It’s a time when many choose to reflect on the months gone by, and to re-establish their priorities for the new year. When it comes to finding stability between work and leisure time, some Americans are more out of balance than others – none more so (perhaps not surprisingly) than those in households with children, who report the fewest median hours of leisure time per week (15 hours).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,577 adults surveyed online between September 18 and 24, 2013 by Harris Interactive.

Balancing act

Overall, Americans report spending a median of 36 hours in a typical week on work (including household responsibilities, studies and travel time) and 20 hours of leisure time. With the exception of Matures (Americans ages 68 and older) and retired Americans, all Americans report work hours outpacing their leisure ones – but the gap between work and leisure hours varies greatly:

  • With 50 hours spent on work and 15 on leisure in a typical week, those with children in their households show a gap of 35 hours per week.
  • Americans employed full time also show a 35-hour work-leisure gap, reporting 55 hours of work and 20 of leisure per typical week.
  • The self-employed aren’t far behind, with 50 work hours and 20 leisure hours adding up to a 30-hour gap between their work and leisure time.
  • Those with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more report 48 hours spent working and 20 on leisure, meaning a 28-hour gap.
  • And a group that sometimes gets accused of laziness proves its naysayers wrong, as Echo Boomers also show some of the most work-skewing schedules; with 45 hours of work and 20 of leisure in an average week, they show a work-leisure gap of 25 hours.

But on the other end of the scale, there are Americans whose lives are more balanced between responsibilities and relaxation. Setting aside Matures and Retirees (whose work-leisure gaps skew toward leisure by 10 and 19 hours, respectively), those whose balances tip toward work the least include:

  • Americans without children in their households, whose balance tips toward work (30 hours work, 25 hours leisure) by a gap of just 5 hours.
  • And if you have a student in your life who insists there just there just aren’t enough hours in the day, it may be worth pointing out that with median work and leisure hours of 40 and 28, respectively, their work-leisure gap leans less toward the work end of the scale than that of most other groups of Americans.

What to do, what to do?

Regardless of how much leisure time they get, what do Americans prefer to do when they do manage to carve out some time for themselves? When asked to name their two or three favorite leisure activities, watching TV tops Americans’ me-time list, with just over four in ten (42%) mentioning it. Reading (37%) is a close second, with computer/Internet time (19%) and spending time with family and friends (18%) more distantly behind. Other top responses include:

  • Exercise/working out (10%)
  • Playing video games and computer/Internet games (10%)
  • Walking/running/jogging (8%)
  • Gardening (7%), and
  • Concerts/listening to music/playing music (7%).

Reading outpaces TV as the top leisure activity among women, who are twice as likely as men to reading as a favorite leisure activity (48% and 24%, respectively). Women are also more likely to list time with families and friends (23% women, 13% men), gardening (9% women, 5% men), sewing/needle work/quilting (7% women, <0.5% men) and shopping (6% women, 2% men) as favorite ways to spend leisure time.

Men, on the other hand, are more likely than women to point to playing video games and computer/Internet games (13% men, 8% women), attending concerts or listening to or playing music (10% men, 5% women), golf (7% men, 1% women) and attending or watching sporting events (6% men, 2% women) as among their top ways to spend leisure time.

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TABLE 1

WORK HOURS PER WEEK

In an average week, about how many hours would you say you spend on non-leisure activities such as working for pay or no pay, keeping house, taking care of children or going to school? Please include not only the time you spend at work, running your household, taking care of children or in class, but also any travel time involved. If you are not sure, please provide your best estimate.

Median number of hours worked

Base: All adults

Median hours worked

All Adults

36

Sex

Male

40

Female

35

Age

Echo Boomers (18 – 36)

45

Generation X (37 – 48)

42

Baby Boomers (49 – 67)

35

Matures (68+)

20

Region

East

40

Midwest

40

South

34

West

35

Education

High School or less

30

Some College

35

College Graduate

50

Post Grad

40

Children in Household

Yes

50

No

30

Household Income

Under $35,000

34

$35,000-$49,999

35

$50,000-$74,999

35

$75,000-$99,999

40

$100,000+

48

Employment

Employed full-time

55

Employed part-time

35

Self-employed

50

Retired

16

Student

40

Stay at home

40

Political Party

Republican

36

Democrat

35

Independent

40

TABLE 2

LEISURE HOURS PER WEEK

And, about how many hours each week would you say you spend on leisure activities including relaxing, watching TV, taking part in hobbies or sports, spending time with friends and family and otherwise doing things you want to do that are not work/school related? If you are not sure, please provide your best estimate.

Median number of leisure hours

Base: All adults

Median hours for leisure

All Adults

20

Sex

Male

20

Female

20

Age

Echo Boomers (18 – 36)

20

Generation X (37 – 48)

18

Baby Boomers (49 – 67)

21

Matures (68+)

30

Region

East

20

Midwest

20

South

20

West

25

Education

High School or less

20

Some College

20

College Graduate

20

Post Grad

20

Children in Household

Yes

15

No

25

Household Income

Under $35,000

20

$35,000-$49,999

20

$50,000-$74,999

20

$75,000-$99,999

21

$100,000+

20

Employment

Employed full-time

20

Employed part-time

20

Self-employed

20

Retired

35

Student

28

Stay at home

20

Political Party

Republican

20

Democrat

20

Independent

20

TABLE 3

WORK-LEISURE DISPARITY

Base: All adults

Work hours

Leisure hours

Most hours spent on…

Work-leisure gap

All Adults

36

20

Work

16 hours

Sex

Male

40

20

Work

20 hours

Female

35

20

Work

15 hours

Age

Echo Boomers (18 – 36)

45

20

Work

25 hours

Generation X (37 – 48)

42

18

Work

24 hours

Baby Boomers (49 – 67)

35

21

Work

14 hours

Matures (68+)

20

30

Leisure

10 hours

Region

East

40

20

Work

20 hours

Midwest

40

20

Work

20 hours

South

34

20

Work

14 hours

West

35

25

Work

10 hours

Education

High School or less

30

20

Work

10 hours

Some College

35

20

Work

15 hours

College Graduate

50

20

Work

30 hours

Post Grad

40

20

Work

20 hours

Children in Household

Yes

50

15

Work

35 hours

No

30

25

Work

5 hours

Household Income

Under $35,000

34

20

Work

14 hours

$35,000-$49,999

35

20

Work

15 hours

$50,000-$74,999

35

20

Work

15 hours

$75,000-$99,999

40

21

Work

19 hours

$100,000+

48

20

Work

28 hours

Employment

Employed full-time

55

20

Work

35 hours

Employed part-time

35

20

Work

15 hours

Self-employed

50

20

Work

30 hours

Retired

16

35

Leisure

19 hours

Student

40

28

Work

12 hours

Stay at home

40

20

Work

20 hours

Political Party

Republican

36

20

Work

16 hours

Democrat

35

20

Work

15 hours

Independent

40

20

Work

20 hours

TABLE 4

FAVORITE LEISURE ACTIVITIES

Thinking of the time when you are not working or in school, what would you say your two or three favorite leisure time activities are?

Base: U.S. adults

Total

Generation

Gender

Echo Boomers (18-36)

Gen X. (37-48)

Baby Boomers (49-67)

Matures (68+)

Men

Women

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Watch TV

42

38

45

42

48

43

42

Reading

37

31

35

40

42

24

48

Computer/Internet

19

16

19

21

19

20

18

Spending time with families and friends

18

19

19

17

20

13

23

Watching/going to the movies

11

13

13

10

5

11

11

Exercise/working out

10

13

12

7

6

10

10

Playing video games and computer/Internet games

10

16

10

8

6

13

8

Walking/running/jogging

8

5

11

11

7

7

10

Gardening

7

1

4

11

14

5

9

Concerts/listening to/playing music

7

10

9

7

2

10

5

Hobby related activities

5

3

1

6

9

5

4

Eating/going to restaurants

4

5

3

4

7

4

4

Cooking/Baking

4

5

3

4

3

3

5

Sewing/needle work/ quilting

4

2

3

6

5

7

Attending/watching sporting events

4

2

5

5

2

6

2

Shopping

4

5

7

3

2

2

6

Sleeping/napping

3

4

4

3

1

3

4

Relaxing/resting

3

4

3

2

1

3

2

Fishing

3

2

4

5

2

5

2

Crafts

3

3

3

3

4

1

5

Swimming

3

3

1

2

6

3

3

Golf

3

3

1

4

7

7

1

Playing with/walking my pets

3

3

2

3

2

2

3

Note: Unprompted responses; Only those responses with at least 3% shown


Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between September 18 to 24, 2013 among 2,577 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

J43566

Q805, 810, 815

The Harris Poll® #93, December 9, 2013

By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

About Harris Interactive

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