Accounting for Household Production in the National Accounts

An Update, 1965–2017

As established in Landefeld and McCulla (2000), Landefeld, Fraumeni, and Vojtech (2009), Bridgman and others (2012), and Bridgman (2016), household production is an important consideration when evaluating aggregate production; that is, it provides a useful complement to the gross domestic product (GDP) estimates published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Accordingly, BEA publishes a satellite account that estimates the value of production by households.

This article updates Household Production Satellite Account estimates to include years 2015 through 2017, providing estimates of GDP that incorporate the production of nonmarket services. Household production has remained relatively consistent over the years, with a few variations, which are described in this article.

One of the most important underlying pieces used in this satellite account is household production hours. After outlining the methodology of the updates to the estimates of GDP and producing updated tables of GDP, we will further explain the methodology and analyze trends in household production hours. We will examine the trends in such estimates as child care, cooking, housework, and gardening to show increases or decreases in hours of work performed by men and women, both employed and nonemployed.

One of the most significant pieces of underlying data used in this account is household production hours. In this section, we will discuss the methodology behind this data and follow some interesting trends.

The source of household production hours data is the Multinational Time Use Survey (MTUS) and the American Time Use Survey (ATUS). The ATUS series begins in 2003 and tracks the number of hours per day American households spend on tasks such as cooking, housework, or gardening. The ATUS survey is large scale, having response sizes of 15,000 to 20,000 diary days, and is conducted on a yearly basis. Prior to 2003, there were a number of smaller scale surveys of household activities undertaken by the University of Michigan and the University of Maryland. These surveys were taken more sporadically than the ATUS survey and cover 1965–66, 1975–76, 1985, 1992–93 and 1998–99.

We combined the ATUS and MTUS data sets into a single data set that tracks household production between 1965 and 2017, following the previous methodology. The MTUS surveys split household time use into 41 different categories, seven of which are household production categories: housework, cooking, odd jobs, gardening, shopping, child care, and domestic travel. The MTUS data do not include hours for these seven categories outside the survey years. The ATUS survey contains a much more detailed accounting of household activities. To retain comparability between the two data sets, we reclassified each ATUS category into one of the seven aforementioned MTUS categories.

The time-series plots show relatively intuitive patterns of time use in the household. Broadly speaking, there exist consistent trends that are largely separated by gender, with women, particularly nonemployed women, spending more time on household activities than men (chart 2). However, two activities break this trend: gardening is primarily the domain of men, nonemployed men in particular, and the principal difference in time spent performing odd jobs is attributable to employment status, not gender (charts 3 and 4).

Chart 2. Total Time Spent on Household Production, line chart

[Click chart to expand]

The aggregate shows the overall trend for both employed women and nonemployed women is decreasing, leading to the aforementioned decline in the size of household production. Because nonemployed women perform more household production hours, the decline in these hours has a bigger impact on the aggregate and is the main contributor to the decline in the overall size of household production.

The domestic travel category captures the amount of time spent traveling in support of the other time-use categories (not time spent going on vacations) (chart 5). For example, time spent driving to a day care center (child care), time spent riding on a bus to a grocery store (cooking), and so forth. This category is not as volatile as it appears. The time-use plot of this category only appears volatile because the scale of hours per week is smaller than the scale on the other plots. If one looks at the starting and final values of each series, one would find that the time spent per week declines by less than an hour.

Chart 5. Total Time Spent on Domestic Travel, line chart

[Click chart to expand]

Regarding hours per week spent on child care, we see that women spend more time caring for children than men (whether each gender is employed or not) (chart 6). However, in recent years, nonemployed men have been performing more hours of child care, while employed women are performing fewer hours of child care.

With regards to cooking (chart 7), housework (chart 8), and shopping (chart 9), we see a clear distinction between the four series, delineated by employment status and gender. In an absolute sense, nonemployed women spend more hours per week on these categories than employed women. However, employed women spend more hours per week than nonemployed men, with employed men spending the fewest hours per week on household work.

This paper presents updates of BEA's Household Production Satellite Account from 1965 to 2017. Household production is a significant and important economic measure that adds value to BEA's GDP estimates. By tracking household production hours, we can see consistent trends that are largely separated by gender and monitor these trends over time, giving us insight into the activities of men and women and the effects on the economy over time. Significant historic changes have occurred over the decades analyzed here, and while most trends have been consistent, nonemployed women in particular are shown to have performed fewer hours of household work, leading to a decline in the size of household production.

Bridgman, Benjamin. 2016. “Accounting for Household Production in the National Accounts, 1965–2014.” Survey of Current Business 96 (February): 1–5.

Bridgman, Benjamin, Andrew Dugan, Mikhail Lal, Matthew Osborne, and Shaunda Villones. 2012. “Accounting for Household Production in the National Accounts, 1965–2010.” Survey of Current Business 92 (May): 23–36.

Landefeld, J. Steven, and Stephanie H. McCulla. 2000. “Accounting for Nonmarket Household Pro- duction Within a National Accounts Framework.” Review of Income and Wealth 46, No. 3 (September): 289–307.

Landefeld, J. Steven, Barbara M. Fraumeni, and Cindy M. Vojtech. 2009. “Accounting for Household Production: A Prototype Satellite Account Using the American Time Use Survey.” Review of Income and Wealth 55, No. 2 (June): 205–225.