July 9, 2008

Free Time: Middle America’s Top Priority

68%

Asked to rate the importance of various priorities in life, some two-thirds (68%) of the self-identified middle class say that free time is very important to them, more than say the same about anything else on the list, including having children (62%), a successful career (59%), being married (55%), or living a religious life (53%).

In a nation often portrayed as idealizing money and hard work, the top choice among a list of life’s priorities included in a Pew Social Trends survey question was “having enough time to do the things you want”; some two-thirds (68%) of the self-identified middle class say that free time is very important to them, more than say the same about anything else on the list, including having children (62%), having a successful career (59%), being married (55%), living a religious life (53%), and donating to charity or doing volunteer work (52%). And having free time is many times more important than being wealthy, which was rated as very important by only 12% of the middle class. When it comes to these life priorities, there is almost no class difference in the responses. The finding about the widespread importance of free time raises intriguing questions. Is this a reaction to the stress of modern life? Is leisure-time shrinking for middle class Americans? And who values free time the most — those who already have it, or those who wish they did? Read More