A number of leading marriage and relationship education programs encourage couples to value and to understand the benefits of spending time together, as it is an important condition for a flourishing relationship. There has been some concern that poor couples may have less time and energy for each other than other couples — and less time and energy to attend relationship education programs — because of the demands they face simply to meet basic needs. Using data from the 2003 American Time Use Survey (ATUS), this paper provides the national estimates of time spent together by married parents at varying levels of income and education. The sample includes 5,729 married parents who were living together with one or more children under age 18.
Results show that economically disadvantaged couples spend slightly more, rather than less, time together than nondisadvantaged ones, and that they spend more of the time they are together in leisure activities (largely watching television). The edge in total hours with spouse vanishes in multivariate analyses controlling for differences in hours worked between low-income and other couples. Family composition and race-ethnicity also display marked associations with couple time. Couples with young children (under age 6) spend more time together, but less time alone together, than couples without young children. Black couples spend less time together than white couples, particularly after a new birth. Compared with whites, Latino couples also spend less time together, and more of the time they are together is spent with their children. The paper notes a number of implications for emerging marriage programs.