85 Years of US Rural Woman’s Time Use
Published: May 2014

Between 1924 and 1931, the United States Department of Agriculture collected approximately 900 week-long time-use diaries from US ‘homemakers’. Described in the academic literature as the ‘Farm Women’s Studies’, nevertheless the sample also included women from small towns and villages. 566 of the weekly time use ‘summary records’, containing totals of time allocated to 58 everyday activities across the 168-hours of the diarists’ weeks, have been re-discovered in the US National Archives. Although these records do not include biographical information about the diarists, they do provide their names and postal addresses. Research at the CTUR has identified more than 95% of these diarists in one or more of the 1920, 1930 or 1940 US Federal censuses, allowing accurate estimation of ages and reconstruction of respondents’ occupational and family circumstances. We use the resulting individual-level dataset to extend the modelling of rural women’s time use trends backwards from the modern American Time Use Study and the 1975 Michigan Time Use Survey to the new 1920s evidence. We find, after controls for demographic and economic circumstances, consistent trends through the 85 year period: substantial decreases of time in routine household operations, and substantial growth in childcare and shopping time.

Keywords: Time use

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