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Activity and contextual codes – Implications for time-use coding schemes


  • Andrew S. Harvey

    () (Department of Economics - Saint Mary's University Halifax)

  • Jamie E. L. Spinney

    () (Department of Geography - Saint Mary's University Halifax)


Time-use studies are designed to picture human behaviour as it is played out day by day. That behaviour has many dimensions, with the main activity usually playing the starring role. However, activity context, where people are, whom they are with, “for whom” they are performing an activity, and how they feel about it can be equally, if not more, important. In reality the experience of living is the concurrent experience of all of these. Traditional activity definitions and grouping exhibit a mélange of “activity” codes developed a priory using the several dimensions based on preconceived activity expectations. Contextual dimensions are examined in a brief review of the origin and development of coding practices and major studies identifying problems at the data capture, coding, and analysis levels. A potential remedy is to be found in contextual coding, which could improve the outcome at all three stages. An alternative contextual approach, the incorporation of a “for whom” column in the diary, is recommended. Data collected from Nova Scotia teachers using two diary versions are presented to provide some insight into its use. Results differ both quantitatively and qualitatively. This approach added to both the number of work activities and the total amount of work time.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew S. Harvey & Jamie E. L. Spinney, 2011. "Activity and contextual codes – Implications for time-use coding schemes," electronic International Journal of Time Use Research, Research Institute on Professions (Forschungsinstitut Freie Berufe (FFB)) and The International Association for Time Use Research (IATUR), vol. 8(1), pages 110-135, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:leu:journl:2011:vol8:issue1:p110-135

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Thomas Masterson, 2011. "Quality of Match for Statistical Matches Used in the Development of the Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty (LIMTIP) for Argentina, Chile, and Mexico," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_692, Levy Economics Institute.
    2. Valeria Esquivel & Debbie Budlender & Nancy Folbre & Indira Hirway, 2008. "Explorations: Time-use surveys in the south," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(3), pages 107-152.
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    Cited by:

    1. Adeel, Muhammad & Anthony G.O., Yeh & Zhang, Feng, 2013. "Gender, mobility and travel behavior in Pakistan: Analysis of 2007 Time Use Survey," MPRA Paper 55474, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 14 Apr 2014.

    More about this item


    Sleep time; time-diary sleep hours; men; women;

    JEL classification:

    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology
    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply


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