January 20, 2019

The Gendered Gap in American Leisure Time

“According to the government’s American Time Use Survey (ATUS), which tracks how people spend their days, men on average are watching three hours of TV or movies a day, while women average two hours and 34 minutes. Watching TV, as the ATUS defines it, encompasses watching live TV, streaming videos, and DVDs, whether on computers, tablets, phones, or actual TVs. (It doesn’t include going to the movies.)

Sayer, in a 2016 paper, called American time use “stubbornly gendered”: On average, women continue to devote more time each day to chores and looking after children than men do. Further, the average American woman spends 28 more minutes a day than the average American man on “personal care”—a time-use category that encompasses activities such as showering, getting dressed, and applying makeup.

A half century ago, there was no leisure gap. What’s changed is that women are working more, but their time spent on housework and child care hasn’t declined accordingly. “The gender gap in leisure is intertwined with college [education] because of the ways college increases paid work time … and also with marriage and parental status, which increase women’s unpaid work more than they increase men’s paid work,” Sayer says.

Television eats up a majority of American leisure time, but there are substantial differences between demographic groups. For instance, according to the market-research firm Nielsen, black adults average more than twice as much TV a day as Asian American adults do. And generally speaking, the older, less educated, or less affluent people are, the more TV they’re likely to watch.”

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