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Tobit or OLS? An Empirical Evaluation Under Different Diary Window Lengths


  • Jennifer Foster

    () (School of Economics, The University of New South Wales)

  • Charlene Kalenkoski

    () (Department of Economics, Ohio University)


Time use researchers frequently debate whether it is more appropriate to fit censored regression (Tobit) models using maximum likelihood estimation or linear models using ordinary least squares (OLS) to explain individuals’ allocations of time to different activities as recorded in time-diary data. One side argues that estimation of Tobit models addresses the significant censoring (i.e., large numbers of zeros) typically found in time-diary data and that OLS estimation leads to biased and inconsistent estimates. The opposing side argues that optimization occurs over a longer period than that covered by the typical time diary, and thus that reported zeros represent measurement error rather than true non-participation in the activity, in which case OLS is preferred. We use the Australian Time Use Surveys, which record information for two consecutive diary days, to estimate censored and linear versions of a parental child care model for both 24-hour and 48-hour windows of observation in order to determine the empirical consequences of estimation technique and diary length. We find a moderate amount of measurement error when we use the 24-hour window compared to the 48-hour window, but a large number of zeros in the shorter window remain zeroes when we double the window length. Most of the qualitative conclusions we draw are similar for the two windows of observation and the two estimation methods, although there are some slight differences in the magnitudes and statistical significance of the estimates. Importantly, Tobit estimates appear to be more sensitive to window length than OLS estimates.

Suggested Citation

  • Jennifer Foster & Charlene Kalenkoski, 2010. "Tobit or OLS? An Empirical Evaluation Under Different Diary Window Lengths," Discussion Papers 2010-01, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.
  • Handle: RePEc:swe:wpaper:2010-01

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Siegfried, John J & White, Kenneth J, 1973. "Financial Rewards to Research and Teaching: A Case Study of Academic Economists," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(2), pages 309-315, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gimenez-Nadal, J. Ignacio & Molina, Jose Alberto, 2015. "Health status and the allocation of time: Cross-country evidence from Europe," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 188-203.
    2. J. Gimenez-Nadal & Jose Molina, 2016. "Health inequality and the uses of time for workers in Europe: policy implications," IZA Journal of European Labor Studies, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 5(1), pages 1-18, December.
    3. Molina, Jose Alberto & Velilla, Jorge & Ortega, Raquel, 2015. "The decision to become an entrepreneur in Spain: The role of the household financial situation," MPRA Paper 68101, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Andres J. Vargas, 2016. "Assimilation effects beyond the labor market: time allocations of Mexican immigrants to the US," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 625-668, September.
    5. Christina Boll & Julian Leppin & Nora Reich, 2014. "Paternal childcare and parental leave policies: evidence from industrialized countries," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 12(1), pages 129-158, March.
    6. J. Ignacio Gimenez-Nadal & José Alberto Molina, 2016. "Commuting Time And Household Responsibilities: Evidence Using Propensity Score Matching," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 56(2), pages 332-359, March.
    7. Salon, Deborah, 2015. "Heterogeneity in the relationship between the built environment and driving: Focus on neighborhood type and travel purpose," Research in Transportation Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 34-45.
    8. Gimenez-Nadal, J. Ignacio & Molina, José Alberto & Velilla, Jorge, 2015. "Excess Commuting in the US: Differences between the Self-Employed and Employees," IZA Discussion Papers 9425, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. repec:spr:soinre:v:133:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s11205-016-1370-x is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Gimenez-Nadal, J. Ignacio & Molina, José Alberto, 2015. "Voluntary Activities and Daily Happiness in the US," IZA Discussion Papers 8764, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    11. Maria Gutiérrez-Domènech, 2010. "Parental employment and time with children in Spain," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 8(3), pages 371-391, September.
    12. Charlene Kalenkoski, 2014. "Does generosity beget generosity? The relationships between transfer receipt and formal and informal volunteering," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 547-563, September.
    13. Giménez-Nadal, J. Ignacio & Molina, Jose Alberto & Ortega, Raquel, 2015. "As my parents at home? Gender differences in childrens’ housework between Germany and Spain," MPRA Paper 62699, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Bublitz, Elisabeth & Boll, Christina, 2016. "Individual determinants of job-related learning and training activities of employees - An exploratory analysis of gender differences," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145865, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    15. Foster, Gigi & Stratton, Leslie S., 2017. "What Women Want (Their Men to Do): Housework and Satisfaction in Australian Households," IZA Discussion Papers 10832, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    16. Boll, Christina & Bublitz, Elisabeth, 2016. "A cross-country comparison of gender differences in job-related training: The role of working hours and the household context," HWWI Research Papers 172, Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI).
    17. Campaña, Juan Carlos & Gimenez-Nadal, J. Ignacio & Molina, Jose Alberto, 2016. "Diferencias entre auto-empleados y asalariados en los usos del tiempo: Aragón vs. Spain
      [Differences between self-employees and wage-earners in time uses: Aragon vs. Spain]
      ," MPRA Paper 71463, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    18. Basnet, Hem C. & Donou-Adonsou, Ficawoyi, 2016. "Internet, consumer spending, and credit card balance: Evidence from US consumers," Review of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 11-22.
    19. Jones, Benjamin A., 2016. "Work more and play less? Time use impacts of changing ecosystem services: The case of the invasive emerald ash borer," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 49-58.
    20. Juan Carlos, Campaña & J. Ignacio, Giménez-Nadal & Jose Alberto, Molina, 2017. "Self-employment and educational childcare time: Evidence from Latin America," MPRA Paper 77360, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    21. J. Gimenez-Nadal & Jose Molina, 2014. "Regional unemployment, gender, and time allocation of the unemployed," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 12(1), pages 105-127, March.
    22. Gimenez-Nadal, J. Ignacio & Molina, José Alberto & Zhu, Yu, 2014. "Intergenerational Mobility of Housework Time in the United Kingdom," IZA Discussion Papers 8674, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    23. Juan Carlos, Campaña & J. Ignacio, Giménez-Nadal & Jose Alberto, Molina, 2017. "Differences between self-employed and employed mothers in balancing family and work responsibilities: Evidence from Latin American countries," MPRA Paper 77964, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    24. J. Gimenez-Nadal & Jose Molina, 2013. "Parents’ education as a determinant of educational childcare time," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 26(2), pages 719-749, April.
    25. repec:kap:reveho:v:15:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11150-017-9368-y is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Tobit; OLS; time-diary data;

    JEL classification:

    • C34 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Truncated and Censored Models; Switching Regression Models
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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