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How the typical American day has changed in the last 15 years

How the typical American day has changed in the past 15 years
1/Nick Starichenko // Shutterstock

How the typical American day has changed in the past 15 years

The United States today is different than it was in the early 2000s. We've pushed through a major recession, seen the end of boy bands, and elected the first African-American president. Those events aside, day-to-day life also has changed significantly.

For instance, things like housework and shopping take less time for us to accomplish. Websites like Amazon and superstores like Walmart mean that if we choose to do so, we only have to visit one destination for everything on our lists—from groceries to cleaning products, from clothes to homewares. On the flip side, creating the processes, programs, and marketplaces that make our world more streamlined is time-consuming. As a result, Americans have started spending larger chunks of their days at work.

The changes in a typical American day really come down to a generational shift. Millennials, those who were born between 1981 and 1997, came of age and became the largest living generation between 2003 and 2017, overtaking baby boomers. It's millennials' preferences, habits, and priorities that really affect how a typical American day looks now. Their numbers, more than anything else, affect the percentage of the population that participates in any given activity and how much time, on average, is spent on that activity.

Stacker took a look at how the typical American day has changed based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' American Time Use Survey between 2003 and 2017 (updated in June 2018). We checked how (and why) everything from household management to work commutes is changing, ranking the categories in alphabetical order. Here, check out how Americans are spending their time these days.

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Household management
2/WAYHOME studio // Shutterstock

Household management

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 0.69 hours/day (-18.8% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 18.7% (+19.9% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 0.85 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 15.6%

One of the primary aspects of household management is finances, something Americans, in general, tend to struggle with. Establishing a budget and tracking finances can take a significant chunk of time. The private debt settlement company, National Debt Relief, reports that six out of 10 Americans spend without a budget, which may be a major contributor as to why household management costs dropped so much over the past 15 years.

Religious and spiritual activities
3/Pixabay

Religious and spiritual activities

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 1.44 hours/day (-17.2% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 9.3% (+14.8% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 1.74 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 8.1%

Time for religious and spiritual activities includes how long Americans spend attending religious services and participating in religious practices, like prayer or meditation. According to the Pew Research Center, 76.5% of Americans reported believing in God and practicing some sort of religion. By 2017, the number of non-religious Americans had jumped from 26.5% to 33%. The decrease in the number of people who adhere to a religion and its practices may account for the drop in time the average American spends on religious and spiritual activities.

Interior maintenance, repair, and decoration
4/Pixabay

Interior maintenance, repair, and decoration

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 2.03 hours/day (-15.8% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 2.8% (-28.2% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 2.41 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 3.9%

With the rise of handyman platforms like TaskRabbit and Handy over the past 15 years, it's become far easier to find and vet people to handle our maintenance and repair tasks. Also, as American incomes rise, so does the American family's disposable income. These could be contributing factors to the fact that fewer Americans spend time on their own maintenance and repairs and choose instead to farm them out.

Health-related self care
5/wavebreakmedia // Shutterstock

Health-related self care

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 1.18 hours/day (-15.7% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 6.7% (+26.4% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 1.40 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 5.3%

Americans avoiding the doctor's or dentist's office is nothing new, but things like burgeoning health care costs and more demanding work schedules have driven those in younger generations to spend even less time taking care of their health. Mental health treatment is the one area that actually has seen an increase, as more Americans than ever are seeking help and treatment for mental health issues.

Participating in sports, exercise, and recreation (includes related waiting and security)
6/Pixabay

Participating in sports, exercise, and recreation (includes related waiting and security)

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 1.51 hours/day (-10.1% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 19.0% (+9.8% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 1.68 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 17.3%

This time accounts for both playing sports, attending and watching sporting events, exercise, and other related recreational activities. Notably, by 2016 there had been a 160% increase in sports programming from 2005. As more channels air more sporting events, it makes it much easier for more Americans to spend time engaged in these activities each day.

Purchasing goods and services
7/Jeramey Lende // Shutterstock

Purchasing goods and services

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 1.64 hours/day (-7.3% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 43.8% (-5.0% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 1.77 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 46.1%

It's possible that the amount of time people spend purchasing goods and services each day is dropping because of the increase in marketplaces like Amazon. In 2003, Amazon was in the midst of its first profitable year; these days superstores and online marketplaces/apps are ubiquitous, making one-stop-shopping easier.

Exterior maintenance, repair, and decoration
8/Pixabay

Exterior maintenance, repair, and decoration

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 1.95 hours/day (-7.1% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 3.0% (-9.1% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 2.10 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 3.3%

Like interior maintenance, repair, and decoration, fewer Americans are engaging in exterior repairs and maintenance because of limited personal time and the ease of finding people to do the work instead. In 2013, for example, Americans spent $310 billion on home improvements (including hiring handymen), a significant increase from the $40 million they spent in 2011.

Eating and drinking
9/Pixabay

Eating and drinking

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 1.24 hours/day (-6.1% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 95.1% (+4.0% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 1.32 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 91.4%

As obesity continues to rise in the United States, it seems surprising that the amount of time the average person spends eating and drinking each day is going down. The data show, however, that the difference lies more in the amount of time spent traveling (related to eating and drinking) rather than the acts of consumption. On average men spend more time (0.51 hours per day) in travel related to food and drink than women do (0.50 hours a day).

Socializing and communicating
10/Pixabay

Socializing and communicating

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 1.84 hours/day (-5.2% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 35.7% (-11.2% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 1.94 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 40.2%

It's been proven time and again that smartphones affect the way we socialize and communicate. While smartphones are expanding our social networks, they tend to have negative effects on the depth and closeness of our relationships. They often are used as substitutes for in-person interactions, which could contribute to the decrease in time spent socializing and the number of Americans who do it daily.

Lawn and garden care
11/Pixabay

Lawn and garden care

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 1.84 hours/day (-5.2% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 9.7% (-4.9% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 1.94 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 10.2%

According to recent data, more people rent their homes now than at any point in the past 50 years. While many of these homes have lawns and gardens that tenants are responsible for, many don't. This could be the reason for the drop in time Americans spent on lawn and garden care in 2017 compared with 2003.

Housework
12/Monkey Business Images // Shutterstock

Housework

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 1.60 hours/day (-1.8% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 34.4% (-8.3% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 1.63 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 37.5%

Housework includes things like interior cleaning, laundry, and organizing household items. Men have begun shouldering more of the responsibility (in 2003 they spent an average of 1.16 hours a day, while in 2017 they spent 1.26 hours a day), but women still do the majority of this work (1.73 hours a day in 2017). The decrease in time spent on these chores likely is because homes are smaller, there are more multi-purpose cleaning products on the market, and families are smaller.

 

Caring for and helping nonhousehold members
13/SpeedKingz // Shutterstock

Caring for and helping nonhousehold members

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 1.76 hours/day (-1.1% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 10.4% (-33.8% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 1.78 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 15.7%

The time spent caring for and helping nonhousehold members (including travel) has decreased over the past decade, both by the percentage of the population that's engaged in the activity and the length of time spent doing it. There could be two possible explanations for this: Americans are less neighborly now than they were in 2003, and they report having fewer close friends (those they'd spend time helping out on a regular basis).

Educational activities
14/Pixabay

Educational activities

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 5.63 hours/day (-1.1% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 8.6% (+4.9% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 5.69 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 8.2%

More people are engaged in educational activities (attending or taking a class, doing homework and research, and any related travel) now than they were 15 years ago. The number of adult students is rising, and an increase in educational models that allow students to maintain their jobs and family life while learning, are both possible factors in this statistic.

Food preparation and cleanup
15/Pixabay

Food preparation and cleanup

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 1.04 hours/day (-1.0% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 57.6% (+13.4% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 1.05 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 50.8%

While millennials may get a bad rap for supposedly always eat out, the reality is that more meals are cooked at home now than 10 years ago. Meal-kit services (such as Blue Apron and Hello Fresh), and grocery delivery may make cooking at home easier and less time- consuming.

Grooming
16/MRProduction // Shutterstock

Grooming

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 0.85 hours/day (+1.2% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 80.1% (+1.3% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 0.84 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 79.1%

America has long been criticized for being an appearance-obsessed society. It seems that with the rise of social media, and the constant comparisons that come with it, the average person now spends even more time on grooming—women spent 0.95 hours a day, while men spent 0.73 hours a day in 2017.

Telephone calls, mail, and e-mail
17/Pixabay

Telephone calls, mail, and e-mail

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 0.75 hours/day (+1.4% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 19.7% (+-23.0% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 0.74 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 25.6%

Millennials may be to blame for the shift in the percentage of the population that devotes time each day to telephone calls, mail, and e-mail. For the largest living generation, texting is the preferred form of communication (with e-mail coming in a close second), and phone calls are the least preferred.

Working and work-related activities
18/Pixabay

Working and work-related activities

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 8.21 hours/day (+2.6% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 43.6% (+-5.6% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 8.00 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 46.2%

People spent more time at work and on work-related activities like job searching, interviewing, traveling, and other income-generating practices in 2017, which should come as no surprise to the most overworked nation in the world. Men worked longer and spent more time on work-related activities in both 2003 and 2017 than women did (8.66 hours per day for men vs. 7.67 hours per day for women), which may have to do with the fact that men are more likely to hold management and CEO positions than women.

Sleeping
19/Pixabay

Sleeping

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 8.81 hours/day (+2.7% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 99.9% (+0.0% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 8.58 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 99.9%

Although we may be working more now than we were 15 years ago, and likely feel more stressed out because of it, we're also sleeping more. It's possible that all the extra work wears us out mentally and physically, so our bodies demand more sleep.

Caring for and helping household children
20/Jacob Lund // Shutterstock

Caring for and helping household children

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 1.99 hours/day (+3.1% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 20.1% (+-8.6% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 1.93 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 22.0%

Americans are having fewer babies than ever before, according to The New York Times. The year 2018, marked a record low number of births for the second consecutive year, but fertility rates have been on the decline for a number of years. This almost certainly accounts for the smaller percentage of the population that spends time caring for and helping household children each day.

Caring for and helping household members
21/Antonio Guillem // Shutterstock

Caring for and helping household members

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 2.13 hours/day (+3.4% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 24.6% (+-8.9% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 2.06 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 27.0%

Caring for and helping household members covers the care individuals give to their children and other household adults. For those who engage in this activity, the amount of time they've spent doing it has gone up, but the overall number of people who do it has decreased significantly. This may be because more Americans are living alone (or without a partner) than ever before.

Attending sporting or recreational events
22/Pixabay

Attending sporting or recreational events

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 2.64 hours/day (+3.9% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 1.1% (+-26.7% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 2.54 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 1.5%

Sporting events remain among Americans' favorite pastimes. Over $56 billion was spent to attend sporting events in 2017, and as more professional and semi-professional teams are established (like the Houston Texans football team, Vegas Golden Knights ice hockey team, and Real Salt Lake soccer team), it makes sense that more time would be spent watching these athletes play in person.

Relaxing and leisure
23/Pixabay

Relaxing and leisure

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 4.39 hours/day (+8.4% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 90.5% (+-0.1% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 4.05 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 90.6%

Relaxing and leisure encompass everything from watching TV to playing games to browsing the internet to reading. It would seem that as time spent working increases, time spent relaxing would decrease. But millennials place a huge emphasis on work-life balance, which may be a reason leisure time is increasing along with time spent working.

Watching TV
24/Pixabay

Watching TV

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 3.56 hours/day (+8.5% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 77.7% (+-1.4% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 3.28 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 78.8%

Americans use their free time to watch TV more than any other activity. Streaming and on-demand services and an increase in programs aimed at certain niche audiences (women, millennials, pre-teens, etc.) could all be possible reasons behind the jump in the average time spent watching TV.

Travel related to work
25/Pixabay

Travel related to work

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 0.81 hours/day (+9.5% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 35.7% (+-9.6% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 0.74 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 39.5%

As more people move to major metropolitan areas and urbanization is on the rise, the gridlock caused by the higher number of cars on the road is sure to lengthen work travel times. Ride-sharing services like Uber, Lyft, and Via are also contributing to travel related to work as more people are choosing private rides to their jobs work over public transportation.

Grocery shopping
26/Rido // Shutterstock

Grocery shopping

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 0.79 hours/day (+11.3% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 13.7% (+-7.4% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 0.71 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 14.8%

Fewer people are spending time grocery shopping, but those who do it are spending more time on the activity. One reason could be the increasing trend for shoppers to go to more than one store to buy their weekly groceries. Millennials, in particular, visit more specialty retailers versus doing all their shopping in one big box store, for example.

Attending or hosting social events
27/Kevin Galens // Flickr

Attending or hosting social events

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 3.30 hours/day (+11.5% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 2.6% (+-23.5% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 2.96 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 3.4%

Attending or hosting social events can include activities like dinner or drinks at a restaurant with friends, work-related events off site, or game nights at home. Millennials have a reputation as an anti-social generation—much of their socializing is done over social media and the internet rather than face to face—so it's not surprising that the number of people engaged in this activity is going down.

Volunteering (organizational and civic activities)
28/ESB Professional // Shutterstock

Volunteering (organizational and civic activities)

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 2.53 hours/day (+15.5% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 6.1% (+-4.7% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 2.19 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 6.4%

More than previous generations, Millennials are thought to be more socially conscious and engaged with philanthropic causes. So it shouldn't be surprising that more time is being spent daily on volunteering now than 15 years ago.

Animals and pets
29/Pixabay

Animals and pets

2017
- Average time spent on activity: 0.73 hours/day (+17.7% 15-year change)
- Population engaged in activity: 17.6% (+33.3% 15-year change)

2003
- Average time spent on activity: 0.62 hours/day
- Population engaged in activity: 13.2%

Overall, Americans are having more pets and fewer babies as they build their own kinds of families. They're also spending more on these pets—in 2017 the average household spent $710 on its pet and care. Expect to see the average time spent on animals and pets increase even more over the next 15 years.

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