Micro Studies of Time Use Research

  1. Individual activity sequencing
  2. Time diaries produce long streams of information analogous to DNA sequences. The days also provide pair (and multiple) bonds analogous to those connecting the pairs of molecules in the dual helix—each element in an activity sequence is potentially linked to spouses’ (and other household members’) activity at that same instant in time. So far we have used software derived from the biological sciences to identify daily and weekly activity clusters inductively. We will now turn to sequencing in a more deductive, hypothesis-testing mode. We will use MTUS sequence data to investigate how men and women in households with different numbers and ages of children sequence activities of paid and unpaid work, childcare and leisure, and how these sequences vary among countries with different regulatory philosophies (“regimes”).

  3. Work and leisure go through the Turing Machine
  4. Emerging from this are, in effect, algorithms for organising daily life (“she takes the kids to...while he does the shopping, then he... and later they both ...”). The next step is building these insights into models of activity sequence scheduling. The “Turing model” of computation involves memory registers updated step by step, the combined current states of the registers determining the nature of the next step—a path-dependent approach to modelling event sequences. Computational agents determine the next activity, on the basis of questions like, “how long has been spent so far in this current state? Have other necessary activities been undertaken today? Is there space for the next desired activity before a fixed commitment later today? What is normally done at this time on this sort of day?” The populations of sequences generated in this way can then be compared (using optimal matching concepts) with actual MTUS event sequences.

  5. Network analysis of household activity
  6. This work in turn contributes to our understanding of households’ “time-budgets” (accounts of how much time is devoted to paid and unpaid work and leisure. Much theoretical effort is currently devoted to rational choice models as compared with more culturally or norm-determined approaches (eg “doing gender”). Plainly the structural positions of individuals in households interact with opportunities and constraints which differ systematically across nation states and regime groups. We will use the insights into activity scheduling from the agent-based models—treating households as small networks—to investigate the decision-making activity, and particularly the practical constraints on the ranges of available choices, which lead to the cross-national differences in divisions of labour and leisure within households.

  7. Embodied capital accumulation and social position
  8. Time use is also implicated in the determination of individuals’ social-structural locations. “Embodied capitals”, the resources which allow individuals to engage effectively in various social contexts, are accumulated by participation in the activities of daily life— in the workplace (“human capital”), consumption activities (“cultural capital”), and social interaction (“social capital”). Individuals’ long-term use of time (see subproject 4.1) is therefore the appropriate basis for understanding the formation of individual capabilities or capacities. The findings from the sequence modelling will be brought together in an investigation of a specific case: the implication (in various national contexts) of the care activities surrounding the birth of the first child for the subsequent employment and partnership careers of the parents.

  9. Long-term consequences of daily time-use patterns
  10. The British Birth Cohort Study 1970 collected a four day continuous (Friday to Monday) time-use diary in 1986 (respondents aged 15-16). Can we identify the formation of embodied capitals related to their short-term time use patterns in 1986, in the form of consequences for cohort members’ subsequent lives, as indicated by their circumstances in the 2000s and 2010s?