TV Land

How do you spend your leisure time?


Leisure time is increasingly important. The time we spend working has declined over the past decade, and the time spent in leisure activities has increased. But what do we do? Increasingly, we watch TV. Millennials don’t watch as much as older folks – and they may watch TV on their phones – but watching TV constitutes the lion’s share of our down-time.

Every year, the Census Bureau surveys a representative sample of American households to find out what we do with our days. Researchers use this data to get a better picture of what we do – work, childcare, volunteering, sleep, etc. This helps get information on labor productivity, among other factors. And time is a non-renewable resource. Each of us gets exactly 1,440 minutes per day and 168 hours per week – no more, no less.

And when it comes to leisure, TV rules the roost.

Source: BLS

Americans have a little over five hours per day to kick back, and they spend over half that time watching TV. That’s higher than it was ten years ago, especially for older folks. Young people are spending a little less time watching TV and more time on their computers and cell phones, but television is still the dominant way that people relax.

A great deal of this time comes from retirees, who may spend over 50 hours per week in front of the tube. And television is an inexpensive form of entertainment, compared with monthly cell phone bills and data charges.

These data remind me that I’m a bad example of a typical household. We own a TV, but we haven’t turned it on in years. We used to use it to watch DVDs, but streaming videos is now so much more convenient. Still, it astounds me that the “boob-tube” can be so popular. It reminds me of the old jibe from radio personality Fred Allen: “Television is a medium, because anything well-done is rare.”

Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA

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