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  • John Shrawder

The Human Life Cycle in America - Changes Across Time

Another way of learning is to identify information across time. This can show trends that may suggest a forecast of the future. Relative happiness in the United States has been in decline since 2016 when the US ranked 16th. This is the earliest year where rankings exist. The time use survey has existed since 2003. We will look at recent trends in Time Use to give us clues for the future and suggest ways that happiness can increase relative to other countries. Time use data is available in more detail than shown above. We will just provide the comparison between 2003 and 2019.


Trends in Time Use from 2003 to 2019


Trend in Personal Care. Time spent Increased by .29 hours a day. Time spent by men increased by .28 hours and women .30 hours. Sleep increased by .27 hours per day. This could be a sign that people are spending more time working on their health and their appearance.


Trend in Household Activities –Men are spending more time on Household activities and women are spending less. Men spend .06 hours more per day and women spend .13 hours less. Americans are spending .05 hours less per day on household activity. On a typical day about 9% more men and 1% more women are performing household activities than in 2003.


Trend in Free Caring for Others –Fewer people are spending less time on caring for others. Men are spend .12 hours per day less and women .20 hours less. On average Americans are spending .16 hour per day less .They are spending 07 hours less on persons in one’s household and .09 hours less on persons not in one’s household. About .09 hours less are spent on children and .05 hours less for adults. About 5% fewer men and 10% fewer women spend time caring for children in one’s household and 5% fewer men and women are caring for persons outside one’s household. This could be a sign of fewer children, more use of paid support, or less adequate support.


Trend in Work and Education – Women are spending more time and men less time. Men spend .21 hours a day less; women and 02 hours more Americans overall are spending.09 fewer hours per day. About 3% fewer men and .3% fewer women work on any day. Participation in education declined by .2%.


Trend in Leisure time – Americans are spending .08 more hours per day on leisure time. Men are spending .11 hours more and women .04 hours more. Television Watching increased .23 hours; sports increased .01 hours while socializing decreased .14 hours. The importance of entertaining others and participating in two way conversations are in decline while passive television watching is increasing.


Trend in Participation in Organizations – Overall participation in unpaid organizations declined .02 hours per day. Participation in religious organizations did not change but participation in volunteer groups declined by .01 hours. About 1% more people participate in religious activities and 1% fewer in volunteer groups. Civic participation decreased .1%. This could be lowering happiness because of a decline in Generosity.


Trends -Teen Life Before 1938

We have shown that the Activities of people from age 15 to 24 today is dominated by Education and Leisure time. Many people have difficulty transitioning to stable adult lives before age 30.


As discussed in earlier postings, this is a result of the creation of high school in 1892, the limitations placed on employing persons under 18 in 1938, and the expansion of college funding in 1965. Today 93% of persons 14 to 18 are in high school and 70% will attempt college. Is this a good thing?


As late as 1910 only 14% of Americans attended high school as late as 1910. People were trusted to be independent adults as young teens. Before 1910, some people were able to make substantial contributions at a young age in the arts, sciences, military, government and community work. Here are some examples.

  • Military leader Alexander the Great set out to conquer the world between Greece and India at age 18.

  • Author Mary Shelley wrote her novel Frankenstein at age 18.

  • Scientist Isaac Newton created calculus at age 23.

  • Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his first symphony at age 12.

We can follow the lives of anyone from the past to see how life was different for younger people in different times. To understand the full life and decision making of a person across the human life cycle, we will also take a detailed look at the life of a historical figure Benjamin Franklin. His biography is broken down by age. Franklin was chosen because of his extraordinary achievements and well-documented life but also because he was considered a role model for youth for the last 150 years. We will also cite his life throughout this class. Because of his accomplishments, Franklin could be considered a person who made good decisions. Feel free to break down the life of anyone else in this way to understand how they made decisions at each phase of their lives.





Franklin breaks some of the patterns we introduced earlier.

  • He was able to make good decisions before age 20 despite not being supervised by a parent and not attending school.

  • He was able to change his life after age 30.

The patterns introduced earlier are general patterns that apply to most people. All people will not follow those patterns. Some like Franklin will not follow the patterns.


Trends: Comparison of Today’s Americans to Benjamin Franklin


Has the expansion of formal education like High School and College led to greater contribution to happiness and misery? In the following table we grouped the lives of current Americans against Benjamin Franklin before age 30. This comparison could be made with any person or persons.







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