At A Glance

Noteworthy Characteristics

  • Well-being Module includes questions on the respondent’s state of mind and how much pain they experienced while engaging in physical activity and how meaningful the activity was to them.
  • ATUS Eating and Health Module collects data about health status, self-reported body mass index, food assistance program participation, eating patterns, grocery shopping and meal preparation, and meals obtained at school.
  • Provides information on the type of activity that was done, including lawn care, housework (by type), exercise, and sports participation.
  • Provides information on the activities people did and the time they spent doing them over a 24-hour period (using a diary).

Website

http://www.bls.gov/tus/

Purpose

To collect data regarding how, where, and with whom Americans spend their time. ATUS is the only federally-funded survey that provides information on how much time people spend doing important activities for which they are not paid, such as childcare, housework, and volunteer work.

Target Population

Civilian, noninstitutionalized individuals ages 15 years and older in the U.S.

Conducted

ATUS: Data collection began in 2003. Conducted continuously, with interviews occurring nearly every day of the year. Data are released annually. Most recent year published was 2018.

ATUS Eating and Health Module: Conducted 2006-2008 and 2014-2016.

ATUS Well-being Module: Conducted in 2010, 2012, and 2013.

ATUS Leave Module: Conducted in 2011. Questionnaire was improved and a modified module was conducted again in 2017-18.

Sponsor

ATUS: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Data collection is conducted by the Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce

Eating and Health Module: Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Food and Nutrition Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture; National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Leave Module: Women’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor

Well-being Module: National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Special Note(s)

See also the Current Population Survey.

ATUS randomly selects one person, age 15 and older, per household from a subsample of households that have completed their final interview of the Current Population Survey. These respondents are asked to report their activities for the 24-hour period from 4 a.m. on the day before the interview until 4 a.m. on the interview day.

A key limitation in using ATUS to measure physical activity is that only one activity at a time is captured. Respondents who report doing more than one activity at a time are asked to identify which was their main activity and this is the activity that is recorded. The only simultaneous activity ATUS collects is secondary childcare. Secondary childcare is care for children under age 13 that is done while doing something else as a primary activity. However, the Eating and Health Module collects information on secondary eating and drinking, that is, eating and drinking while doing something else the respondent considered the main activity. Additionally, ATUS data include information about respondents' time use on one day; the one-day reference period is not necessarily indicative of respondents' long-run time use.

Information about ATUS is available at https://www.bls.gov/tus, by e-mail at ATUSinfo@bls.gov, or by telephone at +1 (202) 691-6339.

For more information on the ATUS Eating and Health module, please visit https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/eating-and-health-module-atus/, or contact Brandon Restrepo, brandon.restrepo@usda.gov, (816) 5926-1961 or Eliana Zeballos, eliana.zeballos@usda.gov, (202) 694-5442

Sampling

Sample Design

Cross-sectional survey.

Stratified, three-stage sampling was used to generate a nationally representative sample. Households with children and households headed by Black or Hispanic individuals are oversampled. Learn more about the sampling design.

The Well-being Module was administered to all ATUS respondents.

The Leave Module was administered to respondents who were employed at the time of the interview. The 2017-18 module excluded self-employed workers.

Sample Size

Approximately 24, 350 individuals in 2018, resulting in 9,593 completed interviews.

Special Note(s)

The ATUS sample is drawn from households that have completed month-in-sample 8 of the Current Population Survey.

Key Variables

Demographic

NameMethods of Assessment
AgeInterview/questionnaire
Disability (general)Interview/questionnaire
Education levelInterview/questionnaire
Employment statusInterview/questionnaire
IncomeInterview/questionnaire
OccupationInterview/questionnaire
Presence of children in householdInterview/questionnaire
Race/ethnicityInterview/questionnaire
SexInterview/questionnaire

Diet-Related

NameMethods of Assessment
Time spent eating and drinkingInterview/questionnaire
Time spent in food preparationInterview/questionnaire
Frequency of fast-food purchased in prior weekInterview/questionnaire

Physical Activity-Related

NameMethods of Assessment
Time spent exercising/playing sports with household childrenInterview/questionnaire
Time spent exercising with petsInterview/questionnaire
Time spent in sports and exercise as part of jobInterview/questionnaire
Time spent on specific recreational/leisure sports and exercise (e.g., biking, walking, aerobics, basketball)Interview/questionnaire
Time spent on specific sedentary activities such as television viewingInterview/questionnaire
Time spent on specific types of housework and lawn and garden workInterview/questionnaire
Pain experienced while engaging in physical activityInterview/questionnaire
Meaningfulness of physical activityInterview/questionnaire
Frequency of exercise in prior weekInterview/questionnaire

Geocode/Linkage

NameMethods of Assessment
U.S. region, state, and metro/non-metro areaN/A

Other

NameMethods of Assessment
Access to paid/unpaid leaveInterview/questionnaire
Flexibility of work schedulesInterview/questionnaire
EldercareInterview/questionnaire

Special Note(s)

A Metabolic Equivalent (MET) bridge was developed for use with the ATUS activity data so that MET values can be assigned to all activities in an individual’s time diary. Learn more. Sponsor of this feature: National Cancer Institute.

Data Access and Cost

Data Availability

Download ATUS data.

Download Eating and Health module data.

Download Well-Being module data.

Download Leave module data.

Cost

Free of charge.

Geocode/Linkage

Geocode Variable(s)

U.S. region, state, and metro/non-metro area are available on the ATUS data files.

Existing Linkages

The ATUS can be linked to Current Population Survey (CPS) data and its supplements. Learn more about the process for linking ATUS and CPS data.

Special Note(s)

ATUS data can be linked to the CPS data that contain more geographic variables. However, at this level of detail, many values are suppressed to protect the confidentiality of respondents.

Selected Publications

General

For a list of related journal articles, please see the current list of ERS Readings

In addition, articles using ATUS data on such topics as Health and Well-Being, Food and Eating, and Leisure and Sports can be found at the BLS website: https://www.bls.gov/tus/research.htm

Diet-Related

Guthrie JF, McClelland K. Working parents outsource children's meals. Amber Waves: The Economics of Food, Farming, Natural Resources, and Rural America. 2009;7(1).

Hamermesh DS. Incentives, time use and BMI: The roles of eating, grazing and goods. Economics and Human Biology. 2010;8:2-15.

Hamrick K, Andrews M, Guthrie J, Hopkins D, and McClelland K. How Much Time Do Americans Spend on Food? Washington (DC): U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, November 2011. Economic Information Bulletin Number: EIB-86.

Hamrick K, Hopkins D, McClelland K. How much time do Americans spend eating? Amber Waves: The Economics of Food, Farming, Natural Resources, and Rural America. 2008;6(3).

Hamrick K. Investigating the Time Use Patterns of Obese Americans. Amber Waves. 2012.

Hamrick KS, Okrent AM. The Role of Time in Fast-Food Purchasing Behavior in the United States, ERR-178, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, November 2014.

Kalenkoski CM, Hamrick KS. How Does Time Poverty Affect Behavior? A Look at Eating and Physical Activity. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy. 2012;35(1): 89-105.

Kolodinsky JM, Goldstein AB. Time Use and Food Pattern Influences on Obesity. Obesity. 2011;1-9.

Mancino L, Newman C. Who has time to cook? How family resources influence food preparation. Washington (DC): U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, May 2007. Report Number: ERR-40.

Oh A, Erinosho T, Dunton G, Perna FM, Berrigan D. Cross-sectional examination of physical and social contexts of episodes of eating and drinking in a national sample of U.S. adults. Public Health Nutrition. 2014;17(12): 2721-9.

Senia MC, Jensen HH, Zhylyevskyy O. Time in eating and food preparation among single adults. Review of Economics of the Household. 2014;1-34.

Sliwa SA, Must A, Peréa F, Economos CD. Maternal employment, acculturation, and time spent in food-related behaviors among Hispanic mothers in the United States. Evidence from the American Time Use Survey. Appetite. 2015;87:10-9.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. ATUS Eating and Health Module: 2008 Current Findings. Washington (DC): U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, April 2010.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Access to affordable and nutritious food: Measuring and understanding food deserts and their consequences. Report to Congress. Washington (DC): U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, June 2009.

Zick CD, Stevens RB, Bryant WK. Time use choices and healthy body weight: A multivariate analysis of data from the American Time Use Survey. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2011;8(84).

Zick CD, Stevens RB. Time spent eating and its implications for Americans' energy balance. Social Indicators Research. 2011;101(2): 267-273.

Zick CD, Stevens RB. Trends in Americans’ food-related time use: 1975–2006. Public Health Nutrition. 2009;13(07):1064-1072.

Physical Activity-Related

Abramowitz J. The connection between working hours and body mass index in the U.S.: a time use analysis. Review of Economics of the Household. 2014:1-24

Dunton GF, Berrigan D, Ballard-Barbash R, Graubard B, Atienza AA. Joint associations of physical activity and sedentary behaviors with body mass index: Results from a time use survey of U.S. adults. International Journal of Obesity. 2009;33(12):1427-1436.

Dunton GF, Berrigan D, Ballard-Barbash R, Graubard BI, Atienza AA. Environmental influences on exercise intensity and duration in a U.S. time use study. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2009;41(9):1698-1705.

Reifschneider M, Hamrick K, Lacey J. Exercise, eating patterns, and obesity: evidence from the ATUS and its eating & health module. Social Indicators Research. 2011;101(2):215-219.

Reifschneider, MJ, Hamrick KS, Lacey JN. Exercise, eating patterns, and obesity: Evidence from the ATUS and Its Eating and Health Module. Social Indicators Research. 2010, DOI: 10.1007/s11205-010-9655-yOnline First™.

Smith LP, Ng SW, Popkin BM. No time for the gym? Housework and other non-labor market time use patterns are associated with meeting physical activity recommendations among adults in full-time, sedentary jobs. Social Science & Medicine. 2014;120: 126-34.

Song Y. Time Preference and Time Use: Do Smokers Exercise Less? Labour. 2011;25(3): 350-369.

Tudor-Locke C, Schuna JM Jr, Katzmarzyk PT, Liu W, Hamrick KS, Johnson WD. Body mass index: accounting for full time sedentary occupation and 24-hr self-reported time use. PLoS One. 2014;9(10):e109051.

Methods

Hamrick K. Nonresponse Bias Analysis of Body Mass Index Data in the Eating and Health Module. Technical Bulletin No. 2012 (TB-1934) 36 pp, August.

Tudor-Locke C, Washington TL, Ainsworth BE, Troiano RP. Linking the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) and the Compendium of Physical Activities: Methods and rationale. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 2009;6(3):347-353.