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American Time Use Survey Testing Mode Effects between Web and Telephone

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Developing a web mode for the nation’s premier survey on how Americans spend their time
  • Funder
    Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Dates
    August 2021 - July 2022


Need for a web mode for the American Time Use Survey.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) conducts the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) to collect nationally representative data on how Americans ages 15 and older spend their time. ATUS respondents complete a time diary with a phone interviewer and report their main activities for a 24-hour period from 4am the previous day to 4am of the current day.

Since its inception in 2003, ATUS has been a phone survey. However, due to declining response rates and increased desire by respondents to complete surveys via web, BLS seeks to develop a web version of the ATUS. Of concern to BLS was the potential for mode differences between time diary data collected via phone vs. web and impacts of mode on accurate reporting of activities and time spent on them.


Developing and testing a web mode.

NORC assisted BLS in developing and testing a web mode for the ATUS. Using a prototype web diary provided by BLS, NORC developed a functioning tool for use in testing. NORC tested whether respondents could report activities independently using the activities lexicon and examined differences in reporting between the web and phone modes. NORC conducted 45 online cognitive interviews with respondents, who completed both web and interviewer-administered (simulating phone mode) time diaries.


Effective multimode collection of time use data.

The cognitive testing revealed that respondents were able to complete a time diary independently and to report their activities with reasonable accuracy and minimal mode effects. The research identified some directions for future research and potential improvements to the web diary. The activities lexicon could be improved to make it easier for respondents to use. Further, respondents would benefit from enhanced instruction and examples of the types and level of detail to report their activities.

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