Americans Would Take Cut in Income To Gain More Leisure Time, Survey Says

LEISURE time - not money - is becoming the status symbol of the 1990s, Hilton Hotels Corporation concludes from recent survey results. Americans estimate that they have 19 hours of free time per week, but want 26 hours.

Sixty-one percent of Americans, regardless of marital status, education, or geographic location, say they would be willing to sacrifice one or even two days' pay each week to have those days off, according to the 1991 Hilton Time Values Survey, for which 1,010 Americans age 18 and older were interviewed. Sampling error is plus/minus 3 percentage points.

More working women than men, by 54 to 43 percent, would forego at least one day's pay for an extra day off. Some 70 percent of respondents making more than $30,000 a year would make that tradeoff, compared to 48 percent of those making less than $20,000.

"We are at a point in history where, to most Americans, the value of time is reaching parity with the value of money," says John Robinson, director of the Americans' Use of Time Project at the University of Maryland.

"Surveyors know that people don't always do what they say they would do" if actually given the choice, Dr. Robinson admits. But he thinks it significant that the view is so widespread.

Similarly, Robinson has found that Americans actually had 40 hours per week of free time in 1985, up five hours from 1965. Yet people perceive themselves as having only 19 hours.

Buying things is currently a low priority for both men and women, the survey found. Among eight goals, "spending time with family and friends" was the most frequently chosen, with 77 percent calling that a priority. "Spending money on material possessions" came in last with 29 percent. Americans seem to want more time to experience life rather than just more money to buy things, Hilton concluded.

Robinson notes that TV-watching has increased to 21 hours per week since 1965. Time spent with family and friends decreased.

Robinson believes the reason may have to do with the convenience of TV and disincentives to getting out of the house, like travel time, parking, or safety concerns.

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