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American Time Use Survey

ATUS Data Dictionaries

Some agencies of the federal government—including the Bureau of Labor Statistics—were shut down or operating at reduced staffing levels from October 1, 2013 through October 16, 2013. This webpage will describe the effects of the shutdown on the 2013 American Time Use Survey (ATUS).

ATUS Survey Operations

  • All ATUS operations were suspended from October 1 through October 16. No call attempts were made and no interviews were completed during the shutdown. Because ATUS interviews are conducted every day and collect time diaries about “yesterday”—that is, the day prior to the interview day—there are no ATUS data for September 30 through October 15. Data collection resumed on October 17.
  • Individuals in the ATUS sample are randomly assigned a day of the week on which they will be interviewed, and then are called on that day for up to 8 consecutive weeks until one interview is completed. This 8-week fielding period was not extended after the shutdown, so individuals scheduled to be interviewed during the shutdown had fewer opportunities to respond than those scheduled for other times of the year.
  • Although ATUS interviewers worked extra hours in the weeks after returning from the shutdown to try to conduct as many interviews as possible to make up for the missed interview days, survey response rates for the affected sample were low compared with typical ATUS response rates.

ATUS Estimates

  • ATUS estimates are generated using statistical weights. These weights account for the stratified sample design and adjust for survey nonresponse, including days for which diaries were not collected. The sum of weights in a given quarter represents the number of people in the population multiplied by the number of days in the quarter. The weighting methodology was not changed to account for the shutdown.
  • The shutdown primarily affected ATUS data for the fourth quarter of 2013, as nearly all of the missing time diaries were in this period. Time diaries about October 16 through December 30 are weighted such that they represent all days in the quarter, including those missing because of the shutdown.
  • It is possible that ATUS estimates for 2013 or for the fourth quarter of 2013 could have been affected by the loss of data due to the shutdown. If people’s time use in early October 2013 differed from their time use in the remainder of the year, ATUS estimates would fail to account for this difference. For example, people who were affected by the shutdown may have modified how they spent their time, but the estimates would not capture this. Any seasonal differences in activities between these periods could also affect the estimates, although ATUS data historically have exhibited minimal seasonality. It is not possible to quantify the effect of the shutdown on the ATUS estimates.

ATUS Data Files

  • Because the ATUS was not conducted during the shutdown, the public use data files contain no information about how people spent their time on September 30, 2013 through October 15, 2013.

Please contact us with any questions about ATUS data.


Last Modified Date: June 17, 2014