What is Leisure Time?
Technically, leisure time is time free and away from duties and responsibilities; though we usually associate leisure time with work. Though, leisure time is much more than that. With every passing year it seems as though we have fewer and fewer free hours to enjoy time spent with our families, a few moments of quiet relaxation, or a day to enjoy the open spaces that can be found all across the State of Maryland. Instead, we are stuck in a commute, have to spend more time to make ends meet, drive further to get basic necessities, and in general hustle and bustle through our days. How we spend our free time (and how much free time is available to us) can greatly impact how we view the world around us, how and whether our families develop and grow stronger over time, the strength or weakness of the communities we live in, and how we view the overall quality of the lives we lead along with our family, friends, and loved ones.
Why is Leisure Time Important?
Continuing losses in the amount of leisure time we have available to us changes the way we experience life and interact with the world around us. In order to enrich our lives stronger and strengthen our connections to one another and our environment, we need the space necessary to choose to volunteer, spend time building stronger families and communities, and enjoy the environmental legacy that we have inherited and will one day pass on to our children and theirs. A proper balance of work, responsibilities, and leisure time also helps us develop and discover our own creativity, spurring the innovations that will fuel our economy in a 21st century, knowledge based and global economy that are limited only by our own imaginations.
How has Leisure Time Changed Over the Years?
With Americans working more hours than ever before, with some of the highest levels of productivity ever measured in the world, and the added pressure of adapting to the new, global economy – Americans are losing their leisure hours. At the same time, we are often faced with intense competition for our leisure hours with the advent of the internet, mobile devices that keep us connected to the world at nearly every moment, and an onslaught of books, movies, television, social networking, electronic gaming and other media that are now available at levels not thought possible just ten years ago – it can still be a challenge to unwind and decompress even in the few hours of leisure time we are able to enjoy.
Methodology & Data Sources
While there has been some debate on the appropriate methodology for capturing changes in work hours, there has been the overall public perception that individuals need to commit to ever rising work hours, losing leisure time as well as time for activities like housework or volunteering (captured elsewhere). The GPI tries to capture this through including a deduction for increased work hours.
We follow previous GPI calculations in their methodology, but are actively working on an improved approach that would be based on more recent time-use studies and avoid issues of double counting. Instead of using the hours per worker, we use the data on unconstrained workers from Leete-Guy and Schor (based on the Current Population Study), since it is only those that would be experiencing "too much work". Counting the underemployed both here and under the Costs of Underemployment indicator would be illogical. We count both market and non-market work, since the aim is to capture losses in leisure time, changes in market work time are captured through income, changes in non-market work by the counting of household labor.
We use linear interpolation between the data points from Leete-Guy and Chor and adopted the assumption of a decline in work hours by 0.3% before 1969 from Talberth 2007, as well as the assumption of an annual rise in working hours by 5.2 hours between 1989 and 1994 based on Mishel et al., applied until 2002. Since work hours of the unconstrained labor force seem to rise faster than those of the overall labor force, using the value by Mishel et al. is a conservative approach. Beyond 2002, we use trends from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS). From 2003 to 2008, hours worked by the population over 15 years old grew by an average of 292 hours. And since the population over 15 years old consists of about 60% unconstrained workers (in 2008, and based on numbers from the underemployment and housework sheets), which is where most of the growth in work time must occur, we divide this value by 0.60, giving a value of 3.2 hours growth per year.
We then took the difference between hours worked in the year with most leisure – 1969 – and other years as a figure of lost leisure time.
(Lost Leisure Hours) Multiplied by (Average Wage Rate)
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Did you know...
According to a recent Harris Poll, the average amount of weekly free time Americans have for leisure activities fell 20% in 2008 - from 20 hours in 2007 to 16 hours last year - and now amounts to 10 hours less than the amount of leisure time (26 hours) in 1973 when tracking began.