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Book Chapter International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences Volume 23

Time Use Research Methods



Paul Baltes and Neil Smelser

Publication date

23 Nov 2001


The four distinct approaches to the measurement of time use in a population are 'stylized estimates' (i.e., 'how much time did you spend in…?' questions), direct observations of activities, reusing records originally collected for administrative purposes, and diary-keeping. The first three of these are subject to a range of technical and practical problems. The diary approach is the most widely used. There is wide variation in the design of time-use diary instruments. They may cover longer or shorter periods. They may be either retrospective (involving a questionnaire about sequence of activities 'yesterday') or prospective (i.e., self completion, covering the period subsequent to placement). The time recording frame may be a fixed grid of discrete intervals covering the period of the diary, or the start and finishing time of successive events. Activities may be recorded in fixed and predetermined categories or respondents' own words . The diaries are normally organized by the respondents' 'main activity,' but other simultaneous activities may also be recorded in the diary, as locational, copresence and purposive information. The results seem fairly stable with respect to the different methods. Choices are problematic (cost issues apart) because otherwise desirable design characteristics often increase respondent burden and reduce response rates.


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