Covid Changed How We Use Our Time, Down to the Minute
The pandemic has changed all aspects of daily life over the past year – work, play and even sleep. New government data paints the most detailed picture to date of the significance of these disruptions.
Americans spent nearly 10 waking hours per day at home in 2020, up from less than eight hours per day in 2019. They commuted less (11 minutes per day in 2020 on average, compared to 16 minutes per day in 2019). ), ran fewer runs (17 minutes in 2020, compared to 21) and exercised more (22 minutes, compared to 19).
And, perhaps unsurprisingly, in a year of canceled vacations and government-imposed closures, they’ve spent significantly more time alone – almost an hour a day more than in 2019. The elderly , in particular, spent more than eight hours a day alone in 2020.
These figures come from the American Time Use Survey, which asks thousands of people every year to track, minute by minute, how they spend their day. Normally, the changes are small from year to year. Not this time.
Some of the most telling changes are those that reflect the unique nature of the pandemic. People spent more time talking on the phone last year and less time socializing outside of their homes. They spent more time tending to their lawn and less time tending to their personal appearance. And, of course, they spent a lot more time working from home: around 42% of employed adults worked from home on any given day in 2020, almost double the share in 2019.
For some people, the disruptions were much more fundamental. Mass layoffs mean millions fewer people have jobs in 2020, reducing average working time by 17 minutes on average. (Among those who kept their jobs, there was little change in the time they worked.)
Parents of school-aged children spent an average 1.6 hours more per day on ‘secondary child care’ – time spent looking after children while doing their homework. ‘other things, like working. (“Primary” child care, the time spent looking after children without participating in other activities, has changed little.) Women have taken on more of this burden than men: Women with children School-aged children spent more than seven hours a day with children in their care, compared to less than five hours for men.
The pandemic has even affected the data itself: The government suspended the investigation from mid-March to mid-May, so the numbers do not reflect the most intense period of lockdowns and business closures. Last year. (The report released Thursday compares the period from mid-May to the end of the year in 2020 to the same period in 2019.)
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