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This fascinating graph shows how life in America has changed since 2003

We travel less and cook more, for starters.

This fascinating graph shows how life in America has changed since 2003
[Photo: Aaron Thomas/Unsplash]

All of us still sleep. But over the last 15 years, the way Americans spend the rest of their time has changed significantly. You can explore how in a new interactive timeline by FlowingData, which visualizes the responses of thousands of people who take the government’s annual American Time Use Survey. As you scroll down the interactive, it smoothly compares the way Americans spent their time in 2003 and in 2018, breaking down what percentage of us do each activity, from making telephone calls to fixing our vehicles.

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The visualization doesn’t address why Americans spend their time differently from a decade and a half ago, but it’s pretty fun to speculate all the same. For instance, more of us dedicate time to eating and drinking than we used to, and the proportion of us doing food preparation and cleanup has jumped notably too. Perhaps it’s the steadily growing foodie culture. Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations launched in 2005, and eating hasn’t been the same since. Meal-prep services, likewise, may be helping more Americans cook than they did in the 2000s.

Scroll through the complete visualization here. [Image: FlowingData]

Meanwhile, Americans report spending less time shopping these days (thanks, Amazon), but we also appear to spend less time “socializing and communicating” (thanks, Facebook). And if you read between the lines, you might see a culture dealing with increasing stress and anxiety: More people report exercising and spending time with pets. Even gardening, another stress-reducing activity, has seen a small boost.

And then there are the self-defeating ways we spend our time. We travel less (likely because we work from home more), but we are also spending less time with our children, perhaps because we have less discretionary income even though both parents are working as a necessity. (You can read more about how we spend time specifically after having kids here.)

In the end, it’s hard to see the last 15 years as either progress or failure, exactly. It’s one thing to track how we spend our time, but another to understand why we spend our time the way we do. One thing that’s for sure: 15 years later, we all have a little bit of it left.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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