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A Time (Use Survey) for Every Purpose:

Non-market Work and the Production of Human Capabilities

Nancy Folbre
Department of Economics
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003


Prepared for the conference on
Time Use, Non-Market Work and Family Well Being
Washington, D.C.
November 20-21, 1997

This paper grew out of discussions with Robert Pollak, Michael Bittman, and Paula England. I am grateful for the comments and criticisms of Elissa Braunstein, Lynn Hatch, Lois Joy, and Dori Posel. Thanks to the MacArthur Research Network on the Family and the Economy for financial support.

A Time (Use Survey) for Every Purpose:

Non-market Work and the Production of Human Capabilities

Nancy Folbre


chained to... (Percy Shelley)

footprints on the sands of... (Henry Longfellow)

...will rust the sharpest sword (Sir Walter Scott)

dead for a long... (Arthur Schopenhauer)

fool all of the people some of the... (Abraham Lincoln)

fool some of the people all of the... (Abraham Lincoln) money (Ben Franklin) but a stream I go a'fishin in. (Henry David Thoreau)

..for every purpose under heaven (Ecclesiastes)

from the index to Bartlett's Familiar Quotations


The battle for empirical attention to non-market work has a long and fascinating history, often punctuated by protests from women's groups. My favorite example is a letter sent to Congress by the Association for the Advancement of Women in 1878, complaining of the Census Bureau's failure to acknowledge the productive value of the home and woman as home-keeper. The letter failed to sway federal legislators, but presented a point of view shared by the Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics, which began collecting data in 1865 on the number of adults engaged primarily in housework. A few men (less than 1%) fell under this rubric, and the small number of married women who engaged neither in paid nor unpaid work were categorized as "wives, merely ornamental."

The state agency included housewives in the labor force until 1905, when they capitulated to Washington and created the new category of "dependents." Today, however, it is Washington that is under pressure. Grass-roots women's organizations, scholars from a variety of disciplines, and statistical agencies from other countries are urging more serious attention to non-market work. Canada, Australia, and most western European countries are forging ahead with the collection of time-use data, and the U.S. remains the most conspicuous laggard.

This may soon change. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is preparing for the possibility that Congress will mandate surveys of time use. Internationally, time-use surveys planned for 1997 will generate more data than in all previous years combined Ironmonger (1996). We should celebrate this progress. But the rush to collect data that can be easily synchronized with existing measures of economic and social welfare could tempt us to overlook important opportunities for innovation and improvement.

The title of this conference is "Time Use, Non-Market Work and Family Well Being." I want to explain why a focus on family well-being might change--or, at the very least, expand--our answers to two very basic questions: Why should we collect data on time use? How should we go about doing it? In the process, I would like to short-circuit arguments about whether GDP is a good measure of welfare by offering reasons why we should expand national income accounts and devise separate measures of welfare and develop social indicators of family and community well being. I believe that expanded collection of time-use data could and should serve all three purposes.

I. Why Collect Data on Time Use?

Most concern with time use is motivated by one of two larger purposes: To arrive at a better estimate of the value of goods and services produced in order to construct more complete national income accounts, to develop a better picture of the quality of life that

includes some consideration of the amount of leisure time that people enjoy. I will term these respectively "Gross Domestic Product (GDP)-oriented" and "welfare-oriented" approaches, though they could also be interpreted as "macroeconomic" versus "microeconomic" approaches. A third approach, less explicitly theorized by economists, explores the effects of time use on

social outcomes of particular concern to families and communities.

All of these approaches have important policy implications (Juster and Stafford, 1991, Michael, 1996; Smeeding, 1997). Yet there is some tension among them, partly because they make different theoretical assumptions, and partly because they imply different priorities for data collection. Advocates of a GDP-oriented approach tend to assume that revised national income accounts would offer better measures of welfare. A great deal of evidence (much of it based, ironically, on time use data) challenges this assumption. But the measurement and imputation of GDP can be justified on more modest grounds. It provides an indicator of how much we produce, a way of keeping score in an important game called economic growth. Unless this indicator is expanded to include some estimate of the value of non-market work, it will continue to offer a misleading gauge of the quantity of goods and services being produced.

Still, we should go beyond revisions of national income accounts. Precisely because GDP is not a good measure of welfare, it is important to study ways in which processes of work and leisure (as contrasted with measures of output) affect people's well being, measured both in objective terms such as health and subjective terms such as reported happiness. Furthermore, I will argue here that we should single out those activities that contribute to the production of human capabilities. Developed by Amartya Sen (1984, 1993), the concept of capabilities has had an enormous impact on development economics, and has helped motivate the construction of social indicators such as the United Nations' Human Development Index (HDI). Human capabilities are inputs into the production of both output and welfare, but they are also valuable in their own right. We might even consider them the most important output of our economic system.

A. GDP-Oriented Approaches

1. Overview

The production-oriented or macroeconomic approach has received considerable attention from economists, and currently dominates the efforts of most national income accountants concerned with time use. The reasoning behind this is straightforward. One of the purposes of national income accounts is to measure success in producing goods and services which we will call Y. The problem is that Y consists of market-produced goods and services, or Ym and non-market produced goods and services, which we will call Yn, and the relative proportions of Ym and Yn vary over time and space.

Work done within the household, which is an important component of Yn, has long been ignored. As aforementioned, feminist critics have insisted that this both reflects and contributes to the cultural devaluation of women's work. Awareness of the possible implications of this particular measurement problem has been heightened by the rise of the service sector as a whole and by the growing importance of government activities that can only be valued via input costs (i.e. what is spent on salaries rather than what is produced). Environmental problems and the depletion of "natural capital" also call the usefulness of traditional national income accounting into question. In addition to mismeasuring output, conventional measures provide a misleading picture of aggregate levels of net investment because they omit household capital and natural resources and fail to distinguish between investment and consumption in government spending. Expenditures on education, currently treated as a form of consumption, should be considered investments in human capital (Jorgenson and Fraumeni, 1990).

Efforts to help remedy this problem by imputing a price to non-market labor typically apply a "market-based" methodology. Applying assumptions similar to those used in the modern System of National Accounts (SNA), this approach focuses on transferable outcome benefits rather than nontransferable process benefits (Ironmonger, 1996:40). That is, it ignores the utility or disutility that a person may experience in the process of providing an output, and seeks to measure the output itself.

Several different types of imputation can be made from market prices, and their relative advantages and disadvantages are currently under debate. One can consider the cost of employing someone to provide a comparable service, the opportunity cost of the time devoted to the service, or develop an input-output approach to measuring the "value added" by the service (Chadeau, 1992: Goldschmidt-Clermont, 1994; Ironmonger, 1996, 1994, 1993).

The issues at stake here have been admirably summarized elsewhere, and many national statistical offices are currently in the process of developing satellite accounts that include the value of non-market work.

The results that we have in hand from Australia, Canada, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the United States (Ironmonger, 1996; Eisner, 1989) show that non-market activities valued solely on the basis of labor inputs account for a sizeable proportion--between 40% and 60%--of the total value of all output. The numbers loom even larger when estimates of the value of capital and raw material inputs are included. Duncan Ironmonger (1996) suggests that we dispense with the current misleading term for the value of market-produced goods and services, Gross Domestic Product, and use the term Gross Market Product. Then, adding Gross Household Product, we would arrive at a measure of full production that we could term Gross Economic Product. What is standing in our way?

2. Problems

The first and most obvious problem is that imputations require assumptions about the substitutability of market-produced and home-produced goods and services. Some household services are impersonal, and we don't care whether they are performed by a family member, a live-in hired housekeeper, a household services firm, or purchased outside the home. This is not, however, the case for one of the most important activities that takes place in the home, the care of dependents. There, we might agree that there is substitutability between purchased dependent care and family-provided child care up to a point. But only up to a point. Time devoted to family care has important person-specific components with implications for human welfare and development. If we value it at the price of an impersonal market substitute, our estimates will inevitably fall short.

On the other hand, specialists provide better quality services than generalists. People who provide market services tend to be specialists. In some cases, for instance, a day care worker who has studied child development and has many years of experience may provide much better care than a family member. If we impute the same value to the services provided, our estimate may well overshoot. This problem suggest the need for some independent measure of the relative quality of market-produced and home-produced services, which we can obtain only by moving beyond a purely market-based methodology (see later discussion).

A related problem is that effect that non-market forces such as discrimination may have on the market value of some services. Crowding of women into traditionally female jobs can have the effect of lowering wages in those jobs. Imputations based on those wages, then, amplify an undervaluation embodied in the market. Once we concede that market values are not always, by definition, "true" values, we lose some of the original motivation for constructing an expanded set of market values.

A third problem concerns the way we model production. Recalculations of the value of output at one point in time raise the prospect that our measures of economic growth have been systematically flawed. Yet very little of the extensive literature on the sources of economic growth considers the impact of the relocation of economic activities from unmeasured to measured sectors. It may be that steady increases in women's formal labor force participation in most industrialized countries between 1950 and 1990 exaggerated the rate of growth of output, and that countries in which women entered faster registered correspondingly higher

rates of growth than others.


On the other hand, if the rate of growth of productivity in non-market work over this period was actually greater than the rate of growth of productivity in market work, it is conceivable that conventional measures understate increases in real output. Some simple efforts to model historical trends conclude that there is no one-to-one relationship between productivity growth in the market and household sectors (Folbre and Wagman, 1993; Wagman and Folbre, 1996).

Reliance on either a replacement wage or an opportunity wage method of valuation essentially ignores dynamics within the household sector itself. The input-output method favored by Ironmonger (1993, 1994, 1996) is more persuasive in this respect. A good case can be made for collecting data on household capital stocks and raw materials along with time use, precisely in order to study the dynamics of the household sector as a whole. But in addition to its daunting data requirements, the input-output approach is based on some restrictive assumptions about the nature of household production functions.

That these problems will take time to solve (are we keeping count?) suggests that we should not restrict our collective attention to the nexus between time use and market valuation. Rather than merely asking the value of Total Economic Stuff, we should simultaneously explore the welfare, family, and community effects of time use. There is obviously some link between what we can produce and how well off we are, but it is a link that proves surprisingly difficult to specify, because it dangles directly over the theoretical chasm between macro- and microeconomics.

B. Welfare-Oriented Approaches

1. Overview

From a microeconomic perspective, individuals maximize something called utility or happiness or welfare, which we will, following convention, simply call U. While U may be a positive function of the quantity of goods and services consumed, it is also affected by a number of other factors, including subjective experiences of both work and leisure. A measure of net product that does not take number of work hours into account distorts measures of welfare. A person who works 6 hours a day for the purpose of earning a specified bundle of goods and services is surely better off than a person who works 16 hours a day for the same.

Is the amount of leisure we enjoy increasing or decreasing along with economic development? John Robinson and Godbey (1997) argue that it increased in the United States between 1965 and 1985. What if income is distributed equally, but leisure time is not? Mothers of young children typically enjoy less leisure than fathers, and wives who engage in full-time market work typically work a double day, because they don't commensurately reduce their hours of family work (Hartmann, 1981; Bittman and Pixley, 1997). Are men gradually adjusting to increases in women's labor force participation by spending more time performing household work and child care? Some, like Jonathan Gershuny and John Robinson (1988) point to modest progress for women in this respect. Others, like Michael Bittman, emphasize that change has been only incremental and the onus of adjustment falls largely on women (1997).

The organization of time also bears upon the construction of poverty lines and other measures of relative welfare. Conventional measures of market income underestimate the goods and services produced in families who have a full-time homemaker. If we impute the value of these activities, we increase the measure of their full income relative to that of dual-earner households, and get a different picture of income distribution. In their analysis of Norwegian data, Aslaksen and Koren (1996) find that full or extended income is distributed more evenly than money income.

On the other hand, people can be poor in terms of time as well as money. If the joint demands of earning market income and performing family labor substantially reduce leisure time, then we expect family welfare to be lowered. Claire Vickery (1997) and Robin Douthitt (1994) argue that people can be poor in terms of time as well as money, and definitions of poverty should take this into account.

2. Problems

Problem number one with the welfare-oriented approach is that leisure is only one source of utilities that escape the net of GDP. Ironically, the pleasure that individuals derive from work may be even more important. Being jobless is a serious threat to health and happiness. Work seems to produce two things--an output, and a "process benefit" that is a source of utility; this joint production confounds the assumptions on which most price imputations are based (Juster, 1985b; Dow and Juster, 1985).

In distinguishing between work and leisure, most scholars invoke the so-called "third-person" criterion. Margaret Reid (1934) argued long ago that work was something you could pay someone else to do for you, and leisure was not. If and when work is performed for reasons of intrinsic satisfaction, however, this distinction breaks down. For instance, a person might derive so much pleasure from cooking a meal for a loved one that they would call this activity leisure, rather than work, despite the fact that it generates a product that can be enjoyed by someone else.

An alternative distinction, more consistent with the approach advocated in the previous section, is to focus on the distinction between transferable (or tradeable) outputs and non-transferable outputs. Activities that create something that is potentially transferable can be called work, regardless of its underlying motives. Application of this criterion results in a classification of activities that is quite similar to that resulting from the third-person criterion. There are some exceptions. Studying is not something you can pay a third person to do for you. But to the extent that it contributes to skills that enhance productivity, it has transferable benefits.

As Michael Bittman has pointed out to me, the economist's traditional focus on labor

versus leisure is too narrow. People devote a significant amount of time to personal care, including sleep. Obviously, you can't pay a third person to sleep for you, nor can you transfer the benefits of sleeping late to someone else. Yet, both sleep and personal care are necessary to the maintenance of human capabilities, and in that sense, they have productive implications.

One way of measuring non-transferable benefits is to ask people to rank the pleasure that they get from various activities, following early research by Tom Juster and Gregory Dow (1985). A number of refinements are possible. For instance, Reed Larson and Maryse Richards (1994) describe a study in which family members respond to beepers that prompt them to individually record their activities and their feelings, making it possible to study both their subjective experience and how it is or is not similar to that of other family members. As Phipps et al. (1996) use survey data on self-reported happiness and "satisfaction with time for self" to measure the within-household distribution of subjective well-being (See also McDonald and Douthitt, 1992).

Problems of interpretation remain. Subjective assessments are shaped by cultural context and personal experience. Sex-role socialization may lead women to accept unequal outcomes (England and Browne, 1992). Wives who believe that it is entirely fair for them to do twice as much housework as their husbands report higher levels of satisfaction that those who believe it is unfair (Lennon and Rosenfield, 1994). But as this study shows, we can explicitly ask how social norms of fairness shape reports of subjective well being.

C. A Human Capabilities Approach

GDP-oriented approaches impute market-based measures of output, and welfare-oriented approaches measure factors that affect people's sense of well being. A third approach could combine elements of both with special attention to the production of human capabilities. We could term this an emphasis on social reproduction (as contrasted with production) or on the "human capital sector" of the economy.

I prefer to use the term "production of human capabilities," on the grounds that many of our capabilities have intrinsic value beyond their economic rate of return. Human capital is often construed narrowly as the accumulation of cognitive skills and considered a form of investment. It is, for instance, difficult to make an argument for improving the quality of care for the elderly in human capital terms.


Nor can we rely entirely on a welfare-based approach. Many people would report a greater feeling of well-being if they were high on heroin. Few would argue that we should maximize well-being on these terms. Most of us believe that our goal should be to live a good life, not merely a happy one. As Plato and Aristotle pointed out a while back, it behooves us to think about what a good life means.

Amartya Sen defines capabilities as "what people can or cannot do, e.g. whether they can live long, escape avoidable morbidity, be well nourished, be able to read and write and communicate, take part in literary and scientific pursuits, and so forth" (Sen, 1984:497). Capabilities may encompass states of mind such as the ability to be happy, but they cannot be reduced to any purely eudaemonic measure.

Capabilities include outputs that are quite objective, such as the probability that a child will graduate from high school or that an elderly person will enjoy good health. They also include some subjective feelings that are more difficult to measure, such as the capability to enjoy oneself, or to care for others. All forms of human capital, and perhaps even some of what economists call "social capital" fall into the category of capabilities, but not all capabilities have productive significance or offer transferable benefits.

1. Overview

For the purposes of discussion, we call human capabilities H, and define it as a category that includes components of Y and components of U. Figure 1 illustrates the relationship between a capabilities-oriented approach and the other two approaches described above. Examples of human capabilities that we can measure in terms similar to other outputs (Y) are health and education. Examples of human capabilities that seem more like components of welfare (U) include social skills and emotional health. Note that capabilities are both outputs and inputs. They are produced via Y and U, and they, in turn, help produce Y and U.

Figure 1. Production, Welfare, and Human Capabilities

Production (Y) Welfare (U)

The sum of market Consumption of goods and leisure,

and non-market outputs. including process benefits.

Question: Question:

How much is being produced? How happy or well-off are people?

Human Capabilities (H)

Production and maintenance of

human capabilities for production and self-realization


What capabilities do people have?

In order to illustrate the difference between these three approaches, compare three families, each consisting of two adults and two young children. In family A, both adults work forty hours a week or pay, and perform a combined total of ten hours a week in non-market work, a total of 90 hours of work. Their combined income after taxes is $51,000. In Family B, one adult works forty hours a week for $50,000, and another adult devotes sixty hours a week to non-market work, for a total of 100 hours of work. In Family C, both adults work twenty hours a week for pay, with a combined market income of $50,000, and do twenty hours each of non-market work, for a total of 80 hours of work. Which family is better off?

By conventional market income measures, we would rank Family A first, because they have the highest market income. But we could construe "better off" in at least three other ways:

By any measure that imputed the value of non-market work, we would probably rank Family B first, on the grounds that the extra fifty hours of non-market work per week provided in this family are surely worth more than the $1,000 a year difference in market income. The total sum of Y, or transferable benefits, seems largest in Family B.

A welfare-based approach requires us to impute some measures of subjective well being. There is no reason to believe, a priori, that Family B is happier. If we had no information on subjective well being we would be required to make some imputations about the likely value of the extra twenty hours of leisure enjoyed by Family C.

A capabilities approach raises a different question, urging us to collect some information about how the capabilities of family members are being developed. In particular, we would want to know how these families organized child care, and what the consequences were for both children and adults.

Prioritizing the production of human capabilities implies prioritizing the production of goods and services that contribute to health, education, and welfare. This is exactly my intent. The constant reference to GDP in comparisons of international economic competition reflects what might generously be termed a childish perspective: The Country with the Most Toys at the End Wins. The alternative approach could be described as People Are Our Most Important Product.

Emphasizing the production of human capabilities is not the same as a traditional welfare-oriented approach, though it certainly urges consideration of welfare. Even those who want to stick to the "most toys at the end" goal must concede that many human capabilities are necessary to the production and maintenance of human skills that are crucial factors of production. We do not have a very good understanding of the production of these skills, in part because economists have focused almost entirely on the contribution of formal schooling.

Indeed, a visitor from another planet reading the economic literature on human capital might conclude that our children are delivered ready-made to schools, where they are injected with a dose of knowledge, then fast-frozen and returned to a passive storage facility known as the family until the next treatment. In fact, families and communities play a crucial role not only in getting children ready for school but in enabling them to make good use of it (Klebanov et al. 1994, Duncan and Brooks-Gunn, 1997).

A few economists have explored these interactions. Arleen Leibowitz (1974, 1975, 1977) has long emphasized the importance of parental inputs into children's education. Russell Hill and Frank Stafford (1985) have studied the impact of maternal education on time inputs into parenting. Robert Haveman and Barbara Wolfe (1995) have developed a larger framework for studying the determinants of children's attainments.

Human capabilities are also crucial to the development of another form of capital that has recently begun to receive a great deal of attention--social capital that represents relationships of care and trust (Putnam, 1995). As Thomas Juster pointed out long ago, productive efforts to build up a stock of social relationships should be construed as a form of investment (1985:178). Michaela diLeonardo (1987) makes a similar argument regarding the "kin work" that many women perform.

Another reason to focus on human capabilities concerns the distributional consequences. Socially constructed norms of obligation to care for family members in our society seem to weigh more heavily on women than on men. Partly as a result, women pay a disproportionate share of the costs of caring for dependents (Folbre, 1994). Examination of the consequences should not rely entirely on the question of whether women are happy with this arrangement or not.

Market economies do not reward care very generously, and as increasing amounts of labor are reallocated to market work, the costs of specialization in non-market family work are increasing. High rates of divorce and desertion exacerbate the economic risks of being a housewife or mother. The political activities both of feminist organizations and groups like Promise Keepers suggest that we are in the midst of a political struggle to renegotiate cultural norms of obligation and reciprocity, with important implications for our collective ability to produce and maintain human capabilities.

2. Problems

It is not hard to cite many studies that fall neatly under the rubric of the production of human capabilities. But there can be little doubt that this approach is far less theoretically well-developed than one based on output or welfare, and it clearly requires interdisciplinary collaboration. At the top of the research agenda is a list of the capabilities we consider most important. The first few entries are easy: health (physical and emotional), and education. Surely we should add capabilities for cooperation with others, now recognized as an important component of social capital. Then it gets harder. Should we wax poetic and add capabilities for creative self-expression?

Economists may be tempted to think of capabilities simply as skills. In fact, some capabilities are like a skill or a muscle in that they can be developed through use, but others are not (England and Folbre, 1997). When psychologists like Daniel Goleman (1995:xii) describe emotional intelligence as "self control, zeal and persistence, and the ability to motivate oneself" they are describing factors most economists would call preferences. Economists prefer to take preferences as a given, but often assume that some are better than others--self-control and a low rate of time discount are especially prized.

Some capabilities are at odds. For instance, capabilities most likely to enhance market earnings may not be those most likely to enhance the quality of family life. Mothers may be more altruistic towards children than fathers are, and as a result, be more vulnerable to poverty (Fuchs, 1988). Women may be more risk-averse than men, with negative consequences for their income, but positive consequences for those dependent upon them. Do we think of ability to conform to social norms, including gender roles, as an important capability? Only if we believe those norms are good ones.

Where capabilities are concerned, we cannot simply assert that more is always better. It is far easier to quantify output or welfare. On the other hand, perhaps we need to encourage our own capability to think in qualitative terms.

II. How Should We Study Time Use?

The reasons underlying our study of time use inevitably shape the methods we apply. The production of human capabilities is a form of production. But unlike other forms of production, it cannot be easily converted to a money metric, and it has particularly salient implications for human welfare. Subjective factors like a worker's state of mind always matter, but they matter especially where the quality of care provided to a young child or a frail elderly person is a concern. It is expensive to monitor the provision of caring services, and intrinsic motivations may matter more than extrinsic ones. Furthermore, one of the most important outputs of time devoted to care is a state of mind--a person who feels safe, happy, and cared for, as well as healthy and well-educated.

It follows that a focus on human capabilities requires more explicit efforts to examine the interaction between production and welfare, as well as to single out certain activities for special attention. This leads me to make three strong prescriptions for future research: We should develop interdisciplinary surveys that collect information across the objective/subjective spectrum. We should devise better measures of the quality, as well as the quantity, of time use. We should establish a better framework for monitoring both inputs and outputs that are especially relevant to the production of capabilities.

When I say "we" here, I am referring to the research community as a whole, not to national statistical agencies. I want to second the recommendations that Timothy Smeeding (1997) makes in his paper for developing a variety of instruments by adding time-use survey modules on to existing instruments, such as (in the U.S.) the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), Consumer Expenditure Survey, and Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). But we should also be thinking about calibrating survey data with more intensive observational and ethnographic studies.

A. Complementaries Between Objective and Subjective Data

Let me give three examples of important policy issues that invite analysis of both objective and subjective factors.

1. The Impact of Unemployment

If unemployed workers allocate at least some of their involuntary leisure time towards non-market work, then conventional measures overstate the impact of unemployment on the total value of goods and services produced. Do unemployed workers actually devote more time to household work, or do they spend more time watching television, increasing their own consumption of leisure but adding nothing to value of goods and services produced? Alternatively, they may organize entertaining events of redeeming cultural value, as in film The Full Monty.

Some countries like France and Italy are implementing a regulatory reduction in the standard work week, partly in hope of reducing unemployment. In these circumstances, do employees elect to work overtime or take another job, thus neutralizing the impact of the policy change? Or do they increase their non-market work more markedly than an unemployed worker, because they realize the need for a longer-term adjustment?

Obviously, more systematic collection of time use data could help answer these questions (for an analysis of time use among the unemployed in Finland, see Paakkonen, 1994). But policies designed to analyze the impact of unemployment must also take into account the way that people subjectively experience it, and a great deal of data suggests that people do not painlessly reallocate their time either to home production or leisure, precisely because they derive important process benefits from paid work. Studies of the "macroeconomics of happiness" show that unemployment has a very negative effect on reported levels of happiness across countries and over time, even for those individuals who are not personally affected (Oswald, 1997). This result holds even in countries that provide relatively generous levels of income replacement.

2. The Degree of Time Crunchedness

The welfare dimension of leisure resides not in the eyes of the beholder but in the mind of the beheld. A good model of efforts to get at both aspects is the 1992 Canadian General Social Survey on Time Use. Statistics Canada collected data via telephone survey on time-use (using a yesterday diary method) that included a set of seven questions on the degree to which individuals felt a "time crunch," adapted from the work of John Robinson (1991). Among mid-aged men and women, men averaged an hour more a day of leisure than women. Women reported less positive feelings about their time use. A much larger percentage of women than men answered yes to the question, "Do you feel trapped in a daily routine?"(42% to 33% for employed and married, 27% to 15% for not employed and married). Gender differences in the question "Would you also like to spend more time alone?" were also pronounced (Frederick, 1995: 39). The Australian Bureau of Statistics has adopted a shorter, but similar set of questions.

The collection of both objective and subjective data provides both a consistency check and an indicator of social significance (Clark et al., 1990). A more detailed multivariate analysis of individual responses (not provided by the Statistics Canada summary) could tell us something about how feelings of obligation may influence time allocation and vice versa.

3. The Importance of Family Processes

Economists like to believe that men and women allocate their time between market and non-market work on the basis of some comparison of relative efficiency (Mincer and Polachek, 1974; Becker, 1981). But there is considerable evidence that social norms governing gender roles exercise a very strong influence (Brines, 1994). Commenting on empirical findings from analysis of University of Michigan time use data for the U.S., Juster and Stafford (1991) note that, in a model predicting drudge work time, a higher value of own wage reduces own time and increases spouse's time, but these effects diminish dramatically when the sex of respondent is added to the equation (1991:498). Gender norms may define a fall back position for individuals who believe they can improve their position (Lundberg and Pollak, 1993).

Ethnographic studies often describe the way that norms shape bargaining in households. Jane Wheelock's (1990) study of unemployed British men reveals a gradual process of accommodation and willingness to assume greater household responsibilities. Arlie Hochschild's book The Second Shift (1989) shows that many wives find it easier to take on additional work than to pressure their husbands to do more. Her more recent Time Bind (1997) points out that some working parents are reluctant to take time away from paid work because they anticipate that their spouses will respond by spending more time there. She also suggests that some parents may enjoy paid work more than from parenting, especially when family responsibilities become a difficult arena of conflict and negotiation. The families studied may not be representative, but the results help make sense of survey questions applicable to a larger group. A recent National Opinion Research Center study, for instance, asked questions regarding orientation toward paid work and family work, concluding that 36% of workers were "workbodies" who tend to feel more "satisfied, appreciated and comfortable at work than at home" and 34% were "homebodies" who felt just the opposite (NORC, 1997).


In studying how much time people devote to the care of family members we should try to figure out what circumstances contribute to a high level of satisfaction or process benefits. For instance, in their beeper study, Larson and Richards find that U.S. fathers often enjoyed time with children more than mothers did because fathers tended to engage in fun activities rather than routine chores such as feeding or putting to bed (1994). Similarly, Bittman and Pixley (1997) observe that Australian fathers devote much more relative time to play with children than to basic care tasks.

B. Quantity and Quality

When is an hour really worth an hour? The issue of objective vs. subjective measures raises the larger issue of quantity versus quality of time use. Some, though not all, time-use surveys code "secondary" as well as "primary activities," and concerns have also been raised about another category of "on-call" or tertiary time. Different methods of data collection often affect the results reported (Juster and Stafford, 1991). Also relevant is the intensity of activities and the sequence in which they are performed.

1. Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Time

Many, but not all time use studies make a distinction between a primary activity and a secondary activity that may be performed simultaneously but is considered of a lower priority, not the "main activity." Examples include listening to the radio while cooking or keeping an eye on a child while doing the laundry. Secondary time-use is particularly relevant to the analysis of child care, which is often combined with other activities. Robinson and Godbey found that adding secondary-activity child care time increased the total amount of time devoted to child care by 50% (1997:107). In their analysis of the 11-State Survey of two-parent, two-child families, Bryant and Zick (1996) found that secondary child care time accounted to about 44% of primary child care time. Australian time-use data suggest that as much as three-quarters of all time spent in child care may be accompanied by another primary activity (Bittman and Pixley, 1997:94, citing ABS 1994:8, 15).

Mothers spend more time than fathers providing both forms of care, and this is likely to affect the intensity and stress they may experience. Maria Floro (1995a,1995b) emphasizes this issue in her discussion of time use in the Philippines. The primary/secondary distinction may be inadequate because it fails to capture activities that are constrained by child care responsibilities, even if there is no direct contact between adult and child. Karen Blanke's discussion of this issue in the 1991/92 German time-use survey is useful in this respect (1994). Referring to the U.S. surveys they draw from, Zick and Bryant note that "it is unlikely that a parent would have designated 'on-call' time (i.e., time when no parent-child interaction was going on but when the child was simply within 'ear shot' of a parent) as secondary time spent in family care" (1996:264). They suggest that it would be necessary to provide respondents with specific instructions in order to track this time. However, the location codes in survey

forms used in both Australia and Canada may allow some inferences about the impact of presence of young children on time spent at home.

Such measurement issues are relevant to the U.S. trend observed in data analysed by Robinson and Godbey (1997) and Bryant and Zick (1996a, 1996b). The amount of time the parents spend in primary and secondary child care time per child seems to have actually increased in the decades before 1985 (the last year for which U.S. data are available). One might wonder how this is possible over a period in which the number of children in organized child care grew so quickly. Paid child care may have displaced "on-call" rather than primary care by parents. This possibility casts doubt on the trade-off between primary maternal care and women's work outside the home that is implicitly assumed in many studies of the effects of maternal employment (Hill and Stafford, 1985, Desai et al, l989).

2. Family Care Time

It is perhaps tempting to think of time itself as the primary input into family well-being. But in fact, time is simply the vehicle for something else that is delivered to families, which we might describe in more diffuse terms as "care." The observation that Fredericks makes regarding Canadian time use data applies to virtually all time use data: "Activities are limited to measurable physical activities. Consequently some unpaid work activities are not included in these estimates: emotional support, household and financial management, planning for special occasions, solving of problems, providing information" (1995:63).

The mirror image of the time-use approach describes family work in terms of the number and types of activities undertaken rather than the amount of time allocated, as in the French Enquetes sur les aides et relations familiales (1987 et 1988) (INSEE, 1992). Surely, however, there are advantages to quantitative surveys that take some qualitative factors into account (and vice versa). For instance, it seems quite important to make a distinction between time spent reading to children or teaching them to count, and time spent supervising children while they watch television. Similarly, if time is spent watching television, we should ask whether the show being watched has some educational content, or not.

Some current time-use surveys make very useful distinctions. For instance both Statistics Canada and the Australian Bureau of Statistics separately codes general Child Care, Helping/Teaching/Reprimanding, Reading/Talking/Conversation, and Play with Children.

However, once such distinctions are established, we might begin to wonder whether self-reporting of such activities is entirely accurate. Here again, one can see a role for observational work that might compare self-reported descriptions with those provided by an outside observer. Developmental psychologists have developed methodologies for measuring emotional support and cognitive stimulation (Berlin, et al. 1995; Chase-Lansdale, et al., 1994). Efforts to link the results of large surveys with more detailed observation data could yield important insights (e.g. which particular uses of time are most strongly associated with these positive inputs?). David Harding (1997) provides a good review of studies of the way children themselves use time, noting that efforts to assess measures of subjective experience have been relatively successful.

Also at issue is the quality of elder care. Families are the primary source of long-term care assistance to the aged, and women provide a majority of this care (Dwyer and Coward, 1992). We need to know more about how this time is experienced by both providers and recipients.

C. Personal and Social Indicators

On April 21, 1997, President Clinton signed an Executive Order formally establishing an Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. Forum members selected a group of thirty indicators of child well-being, including the percentages who lived under 150% of the federal poverty level, who received a full series of vaccinations, and who attended early childhood education programs (IEL 1997:16). This approach builds upon one developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in their annual Kids Count report card.

The challenge is to move beyond a purely descriptive approach and begin monitoring indicators that can be linked to particular inputs of personal, family and community resources. A full treatment of this issue is beyond the scope of this paper, but I want to signal some particularly important issues.

1. Measures of human capabilities

Reflecting the influence of human capital approaches, most efforts to measure capabilities seem to focus on children's cognitive attainments. In the debate over the organization of schooling in the United States economists have focused on children's scores on standardized tests (Hanushek, 1996). As sociologist Christopher Jencks points out, however, these scores are not good indicators of what children learn in school, and test performance accounts for less than half the correlation between years of schooling and earnings (1996). Jencks argues that the difference may be partially accounted for by non-cognitive traits that may be at least as important to future employers as cognitive skills.

Developmental psychologists argue that children's capabilities are influenced by their experiences as infants. Exposure to stress has very negative effects, and exposure to verbal stimuli very positive effects. The expanding role of organized child care in our economy

highlights the need to study the best forms of care for very young children. Researchers have reported negative effects of organized child care on one-year-olds, but generally positive effects for older infants (Blau and Grossberg, 1992). Similarly, greater inputs of maternal child care time seem to improve children's school performance (Stafford, 1987). We do not know whether these results reflect the lack of high-quality paid care for infants or the importance of parent/child bonding. Nor do we know if the measures that regulators use to monitor the quality of paid care (child/provider ratios, group size, educational levels of providers) actually affect children's outcomes (Blau, 1996:55). Even less is known about factors affecting quality of care for the elderly.

Sociologists have studied the impact of family structure on a variety of social outcomes for children, such as the probability of graduation from high school, or of experiencing an arrest, or of conceiving a child (McLanahan and Sandefur, 1994). We know that some, but not all of the negative results of living with a single parent or step parent in the United States are mediated by income. Several researchers report that patterns of time allocation differ in single parent households, with children receiving fewer hours of parental care (Robinson and Godbey, 1997:106; Ironmonger, 1997; Douthitt et al, 1990, Nock and Kingston, 1988). Douthitt (1991) offers evidence that children in these households have less leisure time than other children. We don't know to what extent these results are mediated by differences in the quality of time devoted to family interaction. It seems important to figure this out, if only to offer remedies for families who might otherwise feel structurally doomed to failure.

Finally, we should extend our study of capabilities to adults and ask what kinds of time use might be good for us. Studies show that women who combine paid employment with dependent care responsibilities often experience a significant loss of leisure and an inordinate amount of stress (Berk, 1985; Hochschild, 1989). On the other hand, dependent care offers some intrinsic rewards as well as a "pay back" in later years (Perry-Jenkins, 1994). Parents who develop and maintain good relations with their children are more likely to receive emotional and social support from them in later years. Adult children seldom express much interest in or concern for divorced fathers who did not actively participate in their own upbringing.

David Popenoe explicitly praises the capabilities that men may develop by spending more time on child care. Summarizing an empirical study by another scholar, he writes:

Fathers who had participated actively in rearing their children were somewhat more successful in occupational terms and more successful in their own marriages. In addition, and this is especially important, they demonstrated "a clear capacity for establishing, guiding, or caring for the next generation through sustained responsibility for the growth, well-being, or leadership of younger adults or of the larger society." They were, in words borrowed from the famous psychologist Erik Erikson, "societally generative" (1996:218).

2. Fathers' Time Commitments to Family Work

Many feminist theorists argue that ideals of gender equality cannot be met unless men assume more responsibility for the care of dependents (Folbre, 1994). Yet perhaps because it has typically been assumed that women should be primary care-takers, we have relatively little information about the effects of men's participation. Time budget surveys from the United States show that fathers spend less primary and secondary time with their children than mothers do, and that fathers tend to spend more time with sons than with daughters (Bryant and Zick, 1996a, 1996b). There is little doubt that fathers' activities can have a positive impact on children's attainments (Duncan et al. 1996a, 1996b). But we know little about the specific effects of inputs of paternal time. Nor do we know much about the determinants of father's commitments to family care (Barnett and Baruch, 1987; Perry-Jenkins and Crouter, 1990). Without this knowledge it is very difficult to say what types of child-custody and child-support enforcement methods policymakers should implement.

In the United States, mothers' entrance into paid employment seems to increase fathers' responsibility for child care in ways mediated by their own opportunities for paid work. A recent Census Bureau study found that the proportion of fathers who acted as child care providers during their wives' working hours increased sharply from 23% in 1988 to 30% in 1991, but fell back to 25% in 1993 as the unemployment rate declined (U.S. Census, 1997). Could it be that the lack of public provision for child care in the United States puts more pressure on fathers to help out? How do paternal time commitments differ in countries with high levels of public support for paid child care?

3. Social Capital

A burgeoning literature describes the contributions of social capital to economic development, including much discussion of the benefits of bowling leagues and other informal associations (Putnam, 1995; Putnam et al., 1993). But the role that family time plays in creating social capital remains almost completely unexplored. We may know more about the percentage of people bowling alone than the percentage eating alone.

A number of studies have operationalized specific indicators of social capital (for an admirable summary, see World Bank, 1997). Certainly, one component is the number and type of associations people participate in outside the family, which can be monitored through the use of time-use data. Both Canadian and Australian surveys, for instance, include a column asking for whom or with whom an activity was conducted. In her prescient analysis of U.S. time use data, Martha Hill noted that activities differed substantially by gender: women tended to participate in more volunteer/helping organizations (PTA, Scouts, etc.) while men tended to participate more in fraternal organizations (Chamber of Commerce, Moose, etc.) (1985:146). James Coleman suggests that neighborhood supervision of children is a public good that is eroded by high levels of parental labor force participation (1988). These findings imply that increased female labor force participation rates may lead to substantial alterations in the nature of social capital.

Differences in reciprocity or willingness to help out may be conceptualized in terms of "time-sharing." Relatively poor groups seem to provide more time to helping others out than more affluent groups, and significant racial/ethnic differences have also been observed.

(Juster and Stafford, 1991:502). Social capital, it seems, can serve as a substitute, as well as a contributor to other forms of capital accumulation.

III. Conclusion

The prescriptions outlined here may seem over-ambitious. Perhaps I should restate my argument in more modest terms, and make it clear that I am not demanding the largest and most expensive household survey ever imagined (though this would almost certainly increase the collective output and happiness of all conference attendees).

Researchers seeking to expand traditional human capital approaches and study the development of human capabilities have much to learn from time-use data. Likewise, researchers designing time-use surveys should look beyond GDP- and welfare-oriented approaches to think about how time use affects the production of human capabilities. Time is money and a stream we go a'fishing in. It is also the cord that connects us to past and future generations.





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