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We Work Before We Play

Kids in the household? Then, what is leisure time?

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NEW YORK, Dec. 9, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The year's end is fast approaching. It's a time when many choose to reflect on the months gone by, and to re-establish their priorities for the new year. When it comes to finding stability between work and leisure time, some Americans are more out of balance than others – none more so (perhaps not surprisingly) than those in households with children, who report the fewest median hours of leisure time per week (15 hours).


These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,577 adults surveyed online between September 18 and 24, 2013 by Harris Interactive. (Full results, including data tables and an extended list of leisure activities, can be found here)

Balancing act
Overall, Americans report spending a median of 36 hours in a typical week on work (including household responsibilities, studies and travel time) and 20 hours of leisure time. With the exception of Matures (Americans ages 68 and older) and retired Americans, all Americans report work hours outpacing their leisure ones – but the gap between work and leisure hours varies greatly:

  • With 50 hours spent on work and 15 on leisure in a typical week, those with children in their households show a gap of 35 hours per week.
  • Americans employed full time also show a 35-hour work-leisure gap, reporting 55 hours of work and 20 of leisure per typical week.
  • The self-employed aren't far behind, with 50 work hours and 20 leisure hours adding up to a 30-hour gap between their work and leisure time.
  • Those with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more report 48 hours spent working and 20 on leisure, meaning a 28-hour gap.
  • And a group that sometimes gets accused of laziness proves its naysayers wrong, as Echo Boomers also show some of the most work-skewing schedules; with 45 hours of work and 20 of leisure in an average week, they show a work-leisure gap of 25 hours.

But on the other end of the scale, there are Americans whose lives are more balanced between responsibilities and relaxation. Setting aside Matures and Retirees (whose work-leisure gaps skew toward leisure by 10 and 19 hours, respectively), those whose balances tip toward work the least include:

  • Americans without children in their households, whose balance tips toward work (30 hours work, 25 hours leisure) by a gap of just 5 hours.
  • And if you have a student in your life who insists there just there just aren't enough hours in the day, it may be worth pointing out that with median work and leisure hours of 40 and 28, respectively, their work-leisure gap leans less toward the work end of the scale than that of most other groups of Americans.

What to do, what to do?
Regardless of how much leisure time they get, what do Americans prefer to do when they do manage to carve out some time for themselves? When asked to name their two or three favorite leisure activities, watching TV tops Americans' me-time list, with just over four in ten (42%) mentioning it. Reading (37%) is a close second, with computer/Internet time (19%) and spending time with family and friends (18%) more distantly behind. Other top responses include:

  • Exercise/working out (10%),
  • Playing video games and computer/Internet games (10%),
  • Walking/running/jogging (8%),
  • Gardening (7%), and
  • Concerts/listening to music/playing music (7%).

Reading outpaces TV as the top leisure activity among women, who are twice as likely as men to reading as a favorite leisure activity (48% and 24%, respectively). Women are also more likely to list time with families and friends (23% women, 13% men), gardening (9% women, 5% men), sewing/needle work/quilting (7% women, <0.5% men) and shopping (6% women, 2% men) as favorite ways to spend leisure time.

Men, on the other hand, are more likely than women to point to playing video games and computer/Internet games (13% men, 8% women), attending concerts or listening to or playing music (10% men, 5% women), golf (7% men, 1% women) and attending or watching sporting events (6% men, 2% women) as among their top ways to spend leisure time.

To see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

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This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between September 18 to 24, 2013 among 2,577 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

Q805, 810, 815

The Harris Poll® #93, December 9, 2013
By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for The Harris Poll®, Harris offers proprietary solutions in the areas of market and customer insight, corporate brand and reputation strategy, and marketing, advertising, public relations and communications research across a wide range of industries. Additionally, Harris has a portfolio of multi-client offerings that complement our custom solutions while maximizing a client's research investment. Serving clients worldwide through our North American and European offices, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help our clients stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit

Press Contact:
Corporate Communications
Harris Interactive

SOURCE Harris Interactive


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