Social Indicators Research

, Volume 73, Issue 1, pp 43–70 | Cite as

The Time-Pressure Illusion: Discretionary Time vs. Free Time

  • Robert E. GoodinEmail author
  • James Mahmud Rice
  • Michael Bittman
  • Peter Saunders


People’s welfare is a function of both time and money. People can – and, it is said, increasingly do – suffer time-poverty as well as money-poverty. It is undeniably true that people feel increasingly time pressured, particularly in dual-earner households. But much of the time devoted to paid and unpaid tasks is over and above that which is strictly necessary. In that sense, much of the time pressure that people feel is discretionary and of their own making. Using data from the 1992 Australian Time Use Survey, this paper demonstrates that the magnitude of this ‘time-pressure illusion’ varies across population groups, being least among lone parents and greatest among the childless and two-earner couples.


discretionary time free time leisure time pressure time use 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Andorka, R. 1987‘Time budgets and their uses’Annual Review of Sociology.13149164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ås, D. 1978‘Studies of time-use. Problems and prospects’Acta Sociologica.21125141Google Scholar
  3. Ås D. (1982). ‘Designs for large scale, time use studies of the 24-hour day’. In: Staikov Z. (ed). It’s About Time. Proceedings of the International Research Group on Time Budgets and Social Activities. Institute of Sociology at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and Bulgarian Sociological Association, Sofia, pp. 17–53Google Scholar
  4. Atkinson, A.B. 1987‘On the measurement of poverty’Econometrica.55747764Google Scholar
  5. Atkinson, A.B. 1995Incomes and the Welfare StateCambridge University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  6. Atkinson, A.B. 1998Poverty in EuropeBlackwellOxfordGoogle Scholar
  7. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). (1993). Time Use Survey, Australia, 1992. User’s Guide. ABS Catalogue No. 4150.0. ABS, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  8. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). (1994). How Australians Use Their Time. Revised edn. ABS Catalogue No. 4153.0. ABS, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  9. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). (1998a). How Australians Use Their Time, 1997, ABS Catalogue No. 4153.0. ABS, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  10. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). (1998b). Time Use Survey, Australia. Users’ Guide, 1997, ABS Catalogue No. 4150.0. ABS, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  11. Baxter, J., Gibson, D. 1990Double Take. The Links Between Paid and Unpaid WorkAustralian Government Publishing ServiceCanberraGoogle Scholar
  12. Beckerman, W. 1978Measures of Leisure, Equality and WelfareOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and DevelopmentParisGoogle Scholar
  13. Bittman, M. 1992Juggling Time. How Australian Families Use Time2Office of the Status of WomenCanberraGoogle Scholar
  14. Bittman M. (1999). Social participation and family welfare. The money and time costs of leisure. SPRC Discussion Paper No. 95 (Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Kensington, NSW)Google Scholar
  15. Bittman, M., Pixley, J. 1997The Double Life of the FamilyAllen & UnwinSydneyGoogle Scholar
  16. Bittman, M., Rice, J.M. 2002‘The spectre of overwork. An analysis of trends between 1974 and 1997 using Australian time-use diaries’Labour and Industry.12525Google Scholar
  17. Bittman, M., Wajcman, J. 2000‘The rush hourThe character of leisure time and gender equity’. Social Forces.79165189Google Scholar
  18. Campbell, A., Converse, P.E., Rodgers, W.L. 1976The Quality of American LifeRussell SageNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Ekirch, A.R. 2001‘Sleep we have lost. Pre-industrial slumber in the British Isles’American Historical Review.106343386Google Scholar
  20. Esping-Andersen, Gøsta. 1999Social Foundations of Postindustrial EconomiesOxford University PressOxfordGoogle Scholar
  21. Garfinkel, I, Haveman, R.H. 1977‘Earnings capacity, economic status and poverty’Journal of Human Resources124970Google Scholar
  22. Garfinkel, I., Haveman, R.H. 1978Earnings Capacity, Poverty and InequalityAcademic PressNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  23. Gershuny, J. 2000Changing Times. Work and Leisure in Postindustrial SocietyOxford University PressOxfordGoogle Scholar
  24. Gershuny, J., Sullivan, O. 1998‘The sociological uses of time-use diary analysis’European Sociological Review.146985Google Scholar
  25. Goldscheider, F.K., Waite, L.J. 1991New Families, No Families? The Transformation of the American HomeUniversity of California PressBerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  26. Goldschmidt-Clermont L., Pagnossin-Aligisakis E. (1995). Measures of Unrecorded Economic Activities in Fourteen Countries. Occasional Paper No. 20, Human Development Report Office (United Nations Development Program, New York)Google Scholar
  27. Goodin, R.E. 1995Utilitarianism as a Public PhilosophyCambridge University PressNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  28. Goodin, R.E. 2001‘Toward a post-productivist welfare state’British Journal of Political Science.311340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Goodin, R.E., Headey, B., Muffels, R., Dirven, H.-J. 1999The Real Worlds of Welfare CapitalismCambridge University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  30. Goodin, R.E., Parpo, A., Kangas, O. 2004‘The temporal welfare state’Journal of Social Policy.33527548CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gornick, J.C., Jacobs, J.A. 1996‘A cross-national analysis of the wages of part-time workers. Evidence from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia’Work, Employment and Society.10127Google Scholar
  32. Haveman, R.H. 1993‘Who are the nation’s truly poor? Problems and pitfalls in (re)defining and measuring poverty’Brookings Review.112427Google Scholar
  33. Haveman, R.H., Bershadker, A. 1998‘Self-reliance as a poverty criterion. Trends in earnings-capacity poverty (1975)–(1992)’American Economic Review (Papers and Proceedings).88342347Google Scholar
  34. Haveman R.H., Bershadker A. (2001). ‘The “inability to be self-reliant” as an indicator of poverty. Trends for the U.S., 1975–1997’. Review of Income and Wealth. 47(3): 335–360Google Scholar
  35. Haveman, R.H., Buron, L.F. 1993‘Escaping poverty through work – the problem of low earnings capacity in the United States, 1973–1988’Review of Income and Wealth.38115Google Scholar
  36. Hochschild, A.R. 1989The Second Shift. Working Parents and the Revolution at HomeVikingNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  37. Hochschild, A.R. 1997The Time BindMetropolitan BooksNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  38. International Labour Office (ILO). (1935)/(1996). ‘Convention concerning the reduction of hours of work to forty a week [signed 1935; came into force 1957]’, in International Labour Conventions and Recommendations (ILO, Geneva). Vol. 1: 261–263Google Scholar
  39. Ironmonger, D. 1996‘Counting outputs, capital inputs and caring labor. Estimating gross household product’Feminist Economics.23764CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Jacobs, J.A., Gerson, K. 2004The Time Divide. Work, Family and Gender InequalityHarvard University PressCambridge, MassGoogle Scholar
  41. Juster, F.T., Stafford, F.P. 1991‘The allocation of time. Empirical findings, behavioral models and problems of measurement’Journal of Economic Literature.29471552Google Scholar
  42. Kitterød, R.H. 2001‘Does the recording of parallel activities in time use diaries affect the way people report their main activities?’Social Indicators Research.56145178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Linder, S.B. 1970The Harried Leisure ClassColumbia University PressNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  44. Lundberg, S. 1985‘Tied wage-hours offers and the endogeneity of wages’Review of Economics and Statistics67405410Google Scholar
  45. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (1995). Household Production in OECD Countries. Data Sources and Measurement Methods. OECD, ParisGoogle Scholar
  46. Ringen, S. 1988‘Direct and indirect measures of poverty’Journal of Social Policy.17351365Google Scholar
  47. Robinson, J.P. 1977How Americans Use TimePraegerNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  48. Robinson J.P. (1985). ‘The validity and reliability of diaries vs. alternative time use measures’. In: Juster F.T., Stafford F.P. (ed). Time, Goods, and Well-Being. Survey Research Centre, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, pp. 33–62Google Scholar
  49. Robinson, J.P., Godbey, G. 1997Time for Life. The Surprising Ways Americans Use their TimePennsylvania State University PressUniversity ParkGoogle Scholar
  50. Saunders, P. 1994Welfare and Inequality. National and International Perspectives on the Australian Welfare StateCambridge University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  51. Saunders P., O’Connor I., Smeeding T. (1994). ‘The distribution of welfare. inequality, earnings capacity and household production in a comparative perspective’, SPRC Discussion Paper No. 51. (Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Kensington, NSW)Google Scholar
  52. Schor, J.B. 1991The Overworked American. The Unexpected Decline of LeisureBasic BooksNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  53. Schor J.B. (2000). ‘Working hours and time pressure. The controversy about trends in time use’. In: Golden L., Figart D.M. (ed). Working Time. International Trends, Theory, and Policy Perspectives. Routledge, London, pp. 73–86Google Scholar
  54. Sorokin, P., Berger, C. 1939Time-budgets of Human BehaviorHarvard University PressCambridgeGoogle Scholar
  55. Stinson, L. L. (1999). ‘Measuring how people spend their time. a time-use survey design’, Monthly Labour Review 122(8). pp. 12–19. Accessed online on June, 7 2001 at. Scholar
  56. SullivanO., , Gershuny, J. 2001‘Cross-national changes in time-use. some sociological (hi)stories re-examined’British Journal of Sociology52331347PubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Szalai, A.Converse, P.E.Feldheim, P.Scheuch, E.K.Stone, P.J. eds. 1972The Use of TimeMoutonThe HagueGoogle Scholar
  58. US Council of Economic Advisers. (1999). Families and the Labour Market, 1969–1999. Analyzing the ‘Time Crunch’ (Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.). Accessed online on June, 7 2001 at. Scholar
  59. Van Parijs, P. 1995Real Freedom for AllClarendon PressOxfordGoogle Scholar
  60. Vickery, C. 1977‘The time-poor. a new look at poverty’Journal of Human Resources122748Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert E. Goodin
    • 1
    Email author
  • James Mahmud Rice
    • 1
  • Michael Bittman
    • 2
  • Peter Saunders
    • 2
  1. 1.Social & Political Theory Program Research School of Social SciencesAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Social Policy Research CentreUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations