Uses of the American Time Use Survey to Measure Household Services: What Works and Does Not Work


Thomas R. Ireland. 2011. Uses of the American Time Use Survey to Measure Household Services: What Works and Does Not Work. Journal of Legal Economics 18(1): pp. 63-79.

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In 2003, the data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) began being published and made available to researchers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data from that survey have been published ever since. Beginning in 2003, ATUS was immediately adopted by Dr. Kurt Krueger as his data source for his annual series Dollar Value of a Day (DVD); the series is published by Expectancy Data. The DVD series was designed to provide data in a manner convenient for use by forensic economists and has been widely cited and used in forensic economic reports for that purpose. This paper looks at problems posed by the ATUS survey itself, by the use of ATUS in DVD, and at a specific criticism leveled at DVD in a paper by Dr. Terrence Clauretie (2010). Clauretie proposes an alternative use of ATUS that he argues is superior. This paper argues that the Clauretie criticism and proposed alternative use of ATUS are without merit and that DVD provides a much more useful basis for valuing loss of household services than the proposed Clauretie method. There are three problems with ATUS and DVD that make that survey and its interpretation in DVD less than perfect instruments for measuring household services of an individual who has been injured or killed. The first problem is that time use in ATUS is based on the age of the youngest child in a family, regardless of the number of children in a household. The second problem is that time use after retirement is not a good proxy for the output of household services by retired persons. The third problem is that DVD shows comprehensive time use for an average person, not just the amount of household services provided by an average person in a demographic category. As such, there may be evidence in the record of a case that shows ways that an individual’s time use is not typical of the average that must be accounted for.


Thomas R. Ireland


Household Services, Personal Injury and wrongful death

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