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Beyond the Market: Designing Nonmarket Accounts for the United States
scale field testing in 2002 (see Horrigan and Herz, 2005). Once estimates have been subjected to appropriate scrutiny and reasonably well verified, the data from this survey will be a crucial input into the creation of nonmarket accounts.
Recommendation 2.1: The American Time Use Survey, which can be used to quantify time inputs into productive nonmarket activity, should underpin the construction of supplemental national accounts for the United States. To serve effectively in this role, the survey should be ongoing and conducted in a methodologically consistent manner over time.
The sampling frame for the ATUS is that of the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS)—the actual ATUS samples are taken randomly from households just completing their eighth month in the CPS sample. For example, a household that had been included in the CPS in January through April 2002 (waves 1-4) and January through April 2003 (waves 5-8) might have been included shortly thereafter in the ATUS (a new wave 9). Households are chosen based on a variety of stratifications (including race/ethnicity and the presence of children of various ages), all designed to reduce the sampling variance of the time-use statistics that cover smaller subsets of the U.S. population.
One randomly selected (by BLS) adult member in each household chosen for participation in the ATUS is asked to complete a time diary. The diary is to be completed for the previous day, with a telephone interviewer leading the respondent through his or her activities over the 24-hour period that began at 4 a.m. on that day. Ten percent of the diary days are assigned to each weekday (Monday through Friday), 25 percent are assigned to Saturday, and 25 percent are assigned to Sunday. Respondents list their activities, showing when each new activity began and describing it in their own words. “Secondary” activities, undertaken simultaneously with the listed activities, are recorded if the respondent volunteers that they occurred. The respondent also lists where each activity was undertaken (e.g., at home, at the workplace, elsewhere) and who else was present (e.g., nobody else, spouse/partner, child/children, friends, coworkers).
A crucial issue for our purposes is the classification of the respondents’ verbal descriptions of activities into categories that are useful for accounting and analysis. While the coding system created by the Szalai group has underlain the sporadic U.S. time-budget surveys, the ATUS has gone far beyond this. Beginning with a three-tier six-digit coding system, the basic codes are aggregated into 17 top-level categories: