Skip to main content

Center Publication

Time Use Across the Lifecourse—Issue Brief

by Tay McNamara

November 2008—Time Use Across the Life Course outlines the variation in the “typical” day over the life course, paying special attention to the role of work and job-related characteristics. The Issue Brief addresses how older workers and younger workers differ in time use, as well as examining gender differences. We also look at how time use changes over the traditional retirement years, and what role job characteristics play in those changes.

Analyzes show that though patterns of individual daily time use shift, at all ages, employment, leisure, and personal time make up the majority of a person’s day. The average time spent on work activities does not vary significantly with age. Employed men reported spending five hours per day working, while employed women averaged only four hours per day. Leisure time, however, does vary with age, employed men and women spend slightly more time on leisure activities as they age. while unemployed individuals often spend less time on leisure.

Analyzing the ways older adults differ from their younger counterparts can highlight continuity and change over the life course. Tay McNamara, Research Director at the Sloan Center suggests that understanding how older workers use their time “should help employers to better understand potential areas of conflict or overlap between work and family life. This is especially salient for older workers because the retirement years are marked by a reorganization of time use (particularly a shift away from paid work).”

In addition, previous research suggests that past time use has an important effect on future time use. That is, the patterns of activities developed during the early retirement years may continue well beyond them. When a person begins care giving, he or she establishes patterns of behavior and expectations that become established for the long term, similar patterns exist with leisure activities.

» Read more findings in Time Use Across the Lifecourse—Issue Brief

» View Recent Publications

» View All Center Publications