Myth: America’s dads get more “leisure time” than moms

No, they don’t.  The American Time Use Survey lists two separate categories: “personal care” and “leisure.”  Personal care includes sleep.  From All In, here is what the ATUS shows:

Moms report spending a bit less time each day on “leisure and sports,” but they also report spending a bit more time on sleeping and other “personal care.” The differences are in the same range. So, for example, a mom goes to bed while a dad spends twenty minutes watching TV, then goes to bed, and they both get up at the same time. One doesn’t get “more” than the other; they just used that little bit of time differently.

I’d never write a story that declares simply, “Moms Get More Sleep,” because that would be equally misleading.

Often, this myth is applied specifically to couples in which both parents work full time.  So I spoke with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which oversees the ATUS.  They got me the data on employed parents, and I did the calculations.  (The chart is not publicly available; contact me for a copy.)

Across a week, employed mothers and fathers report spending about 12.5 hours a day on personal care and leisure combined. (Yes, it often doesn’t feel that way!  And besides, given that most of that goes to sleep, it’s still a small chunk of waking hours.)  Any differences are well within sampling errors.  Working moms report a tiny bit more time in personal care and relaxation combined on weekdays, while dads report more on weekends.

Sadly, Pew Research is the worst purveyor of this myth.  The agency put out a report looking only at leisure time, while ignoring personal care.  I’ve contacted Pew about this repeatedly.  They offer no explanation or excuse, they simply refuse to update their report.  To complain about this, email and tag @pewresearch on Twitter.