Racial/ethnic and gender differentials in time-use: Mexican immigrants' poverty of time, gender division of labor and self-rated health




Rodriguez Abreu, Mauricio

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The growing relative significance of the Mexican-origin population in the United States, whose dynamics are driven by immigration and births, calls attention to the importance to understand life conditions of its individuals. In particular, given the conditions of socioeconomic disadvantages that these populations face in the country, analyzing their experiences of assimilation into the U.S. becomes a fundamental dimension of the study of their well-being.

Time-use studies provide information regarding various activities conducted throughout the day, highlighting lifestyles, social dynamics, values and quality of life. Following the assimilation perspective in combination with gender frameworks, it is possible to explain differences in the time allocated to specific activities across subgroups of the population. The present follows these perspectives to analyze the way in which Mexican-origin populations spend their time as a dimension of the process of cultural assimilation. Using data from the American Time Use Survey 2003-2014, the study explores racial/ethnic and gender differences in poverty of time, time allocated to housework and care, and the consequences of time spent in these activities for self-rated health status.

The main findings from the present study are five-fold. First, immigrant populations, particularly Mexicans, are more likely to be in poverty of time — or not having time for leisure and social activities — than their natives counterparts. However, after controlling for demographic, socioeconomic and household characteristics, the differences are no longer significant for the male population. Second, Mexican women spend more time than any other group in housework, which results in a considerable burden as racial/ethnic identity disadvantages intersect with gender. Third, time in active leisure, religious activities, and volunteering is associated with improvements in health reports, while passive leisure increases the likelihood to report poor health status. Fourth, contrary to the behavior observed for Mexican immigrants, outcomes for Mexican-Americans were not statistically different from those found among non-Hispanic whites (the reference group); this seems to indicate the existence of a process of intergenerational assimilation. Fifth, time in the U.S. is associated with reductions in the differences between non-Hispanic whites and Mexican immigrant population in participation and time spent in different activities and health perception, which is an indicator of the process of immigrant assimilation in time-use behaviors, lifestyles, and ideologies.


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Assimilation, Immigration, Time-use