Revisiting the Gap between Stylized and Diary Estimates of Market Work Time

Previous studies find that workers of longer work weeks report more market hours in stylized measure than in time diary, while those of shorter work weeks report fewer hours. Using data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) 2003-2007, this paper attempts to explain this dilemma. I argue that market work time is composed of activity time, committed time, and constrained time. Thus, part of the difference found between the two estimates is due to the calculation of the diary estimate. I also argue that the wording of the stylized question is consequential. Some stylized questions (e.g., How many hours per week do you usually work?) might capture the mode, instead of the mean, of work time. Thus, when the distribution of work time is skewed, the mismatch between the two estimates is expected. A sequence-based identification for diary estimate and a nonparametric adjustment for stylized estimate are proposed and empirically examined. The result indicates that both methods significantly reduce the observed gap between the two estimates. I discuss the implications for future time use survey design in the concluding section.

Social Science Research 41(2):380-391