How Do Americans Spend Their Days?

Analytics -

Have you ever wondered what a typical day looks like for an American citizen? What are they doing at four in the morning and four in the afternoon? Statistician Nathan Yau of @FlowingData, using 2014 data from the American Time Use Survey, has created a fascinating visualization that answers these questions and shows us exactly how average Americans spend their 24 hours.

A Simulation of 1 000 People’s Average Day >

Although we are sometimes too wrapped up in our routines to consider the routines of others, it is actually fascinating to think about what someone else might be doing at a given time. Yay’s visualization does just that, showing how America operates minute-by-minute.

The simulation starts at 4:00am and runs for 24 hours. Small dots represent people, and their color represents the activity they’re performing. Watching the moving dots shows people headed to work, running errands, taking care of children, commuting, relaxing, shopping, and eating. At the same time, you can see percentages listed beneath each category and demonstrating exactly what proportion of Americans are engaged in an activity at a given time.

So What Can We Learn?

The day starts off slow - most people are still asleep! The majority of Americans wake up between 6:30am and 7:30am before heading into personal care, breakfast, commuting to work, and performing housework.

The lunch hour is typically between noon and 1:00pm, when there’s an increased movement from work to eating and drinking. Many people also use this time for relaxation before returning to the job.

The average American leaves work around 5:00pm to prepare and eat dinner; between 10:00pm and midnight they are already winding down for bed.

Analysing this visualization also allows us to see patterns of how people spend their money. Around 10:00am, stores and services begin to open; this is when many people run errands and the amount of people shopping increases to 5%. Another increase in shopping percentage occurs around 4pm when some 4% of people spend their time in a shop.

14% of Americans can be found having a meal around noon, and another spike occurs for the 3pm coffee break. The percentage of Americans eating returns to 14% around 6pm when people are having dinner.

While it might not be very surprising that the majority of Americans work during the day and sleep at night, it can be fascinating to notice the variations that exist in people’s lives. Yay’s simulation is a useful tool to reflect upon our everyday lives and consider the differences we might have from the average American.

Tags: American lifestyle, Simulation, Visualization

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