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Canada's General Social Survey on Time Use: Challenges and Potential

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5. North American comparison

5.1 "Where were you" component

With the arrival of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic's time use survey (ATUS), GSS has made modifications to the "Where were you" component of the diary episode to assist in the comparison of our data to that of our neighbour. The "Where were you" data element captures the respondent's location or the form of transit they were using during the episode.

In the first GSS time use cycle (Cycle 2) in 1986, three possible locations were used; the respondent's home, their place of work or other place. In 1992, Cycle 7 created a new location: someone else's home. These four locations were also used in 1998 for Cycle 12. For those episodes that were reported at another place, analysts could, at times, derive a possible location dependent upon the activity code (e.g., socializing at an institution, a restaurant meal).

For 2005 (Cycle 19), GSS expanded the list of locations to match that of the ATUS.

    1. Respondent's home
    2. Work place
    3. Someone else's home
    4. Restaurant/Bar
    5. Place of worship
    6. Grocery store
    7. Other store/Mall
    8. School
    9. Outdoors away from home
    10. Library
    11. Other place

This expansion of locations will allow for the further verification of the activity code reported and the creation of new summary data elements examining the duration of time spent at these locations.

The other option of the "Where were you" data element has also undergone expansion over the cycles. In Cycle 2, four transit codes were available: car, walking, bus & subway, and other form of transit. Cycle 7 split the car category to capture whether the respondent was driving the car or was a passenger in the car. As well, the new category "Bicycle" was included. Cycle 12 used to same categories as Cycle 7, as well.

The list of forms of transit has been expanded for Cycle 19 to match the ATUS. Bus & subway have been split, and the new categories Boat/Ferry, Taxi/Limousine Service and Airplane have been added. This expansion will allow for a better understanding of commuters and all the different forms of transit that a respondent may use during a trip to work and back. With the increase in sample size to 20,000, detailed analysis can now be provided comparing east and west coast respondents, who rely on boats, ferries and sea-based airplanes for some of their transit, and respondents who live near metropolitan areas in central Canada.

    1. Car (driver)
    2. Car (passenger)
    3. Walk
    4. Bus (includes street cars)
    5. Subway/Train (includes commuter trains)
    6. Bicycle
    7. Boat/Ferry
    8. Taxi/Limousine service
    9. Airplane
    10. Other

5.2 "Who was with you" component

The "Who was with you" component of the episode has also undergone changes since the first time use survey. Cycles 2 and 7 used six categories:

  • Respondent was alone
  • Spouse/Partner
  • Child(ren) of household
  • Other family member(s)
  • Friend(s)
  • Other person(s)

Cycle 12 had a major expansion of these categories. First of all, persons who were present during an activity with the respondent were identified as either living inside or outside the respondent's household.

Next, Cycle 12 identified children of the respondent who were living outside the household and partitioned these into 'less than 15 years of age' and '15 and older'. Cycles 2 and 7 would have identified these persons as "Other family members". As well, the previous two cycles grouped all children of the household regardless of age. These children were also partitioned based on the same age categories for Cycle 12.

Thirdly, parent(s) or parent(s) in-law was identified. Parent had previously been included with "Other family member" in the first two cycles.

Cycle 12 "Who was with you" component

Living inside the household
    1. Alone
    2. Spouse/Partner
    3. Child(ren) less than 15 years old
    4. Parent(s) or parent(s) in-law
    5. Other member(s) (include children of 15 and older)
Living outside the household
    1. Child(ren) of the respondent less than 15 years old
    2. Child(ren) of the respondent 15 or older
    3. Parent(s) or parent(s) in-law
    4. Other family member(s)
    5. Friends
    6. Other person(s)

For members living inside the household, the ATUS used the household roster to identify those persons who had social contact with the respondent during the activity. Unlike the GSS household roster, the ATUS household roster does not contain the inter-relationships between the household members (i.e., the ATUS household roster includes information about how household members are related to the respondent only and does not include additional information about how household members are related to each other).

Even without these inter-relationships, the household members can be collapsed to the 5 GSS "Living in household" categories.

The ATUS household has the following relationships:

How is this person related to you? (Roster File: TERRP)

ATUS relationships
    1. Self
    2. Self
    3. Spouse (husband/wife)
    4. Unmarried partner
    5. Own household child
    6. Grandchild
    7. Parent (mother/father)
    8. Brother/Sister
    9. Other related person (aunt, cousin, nephew)
    10. Foster child
    11. Housemate/Roommate
    12. Roomer/Boarder
    13. Other non-relative
    14. Own non-household child

Unfortunately, the non-household ATUS categories don't collapse as well to the 6 GSS "Living outside the household" categories. The non-household ATUS categories for the "Who were you with" component are:

Non-household family
  • Parents
  • Other non-household family members < 18
  • Other non-household family members 18 and older (incl. Parents-in-law)
Other non-household
  • Friends
  • Co-workers, colleagues, clients
  • Neighbours, acquaintances
  • Other non-household children < 18
  • Other non-household adults 18 and older

The one major difference between the ATUS and GSS time use surveys is the age at which each survey determines the age break for children. The ATUS uses 18 as its partition point for categorizing children, while GSS uses 15 as its partition point. Both the GSS time use cycles and ATUS require respondents to be 15 years of age or older.

Table 2. Possible collapse of ATUS non-household members to GSS categories. A new browser window will open.

Table 2  Possible collapse of ATUS non-household members to GSS categories

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Date modified: 2006-11-20 Important Notices