A profound transformation is unfolding in how Americans spend their time, upending traditional societal arrangements. But exactly how large have these shifts been? Who have they impacted the most? And what are the broader implications of these trends? To tackle these questions, this article examines three shifts in time use before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
These are not just academic questions. How we allocate time shapes countless economic phenomena. We need to pay attention to changes in how we spend time if we are to address issues of pervasive inequality, vulnerable city finances, and increasing social isolation. And by accelerating many of these time-use changes, COVID-19 has presented us with a unique opportunity to think critically about how we want to spend our time.
This article appeared in the Fourth Quarter 2023 issue of Economic Insights. Download and read the full issue.
Supplemental Material (PDF): Appendix
This appendix describes how Enghin Atalay used cellphone data to estimate time use from March 19 to May 10, 2020, during which the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) was not collected.