• The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Leo Goodman and Mike Hout in the development of this manuscript. The authors would also like to thank three anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions. This study is part of an interdisciplinary, collaborative research endeavor conducted by members of the UCLA Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF), under the direction of Elinor Ochs and the Center on Parents, Children and Work at the University of Chicago and Michigan State University, under the co-direction of Barbara Schneider and Linda Waite. These centers are generously supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation program on the Workplace, Workforce, and Working Families, directed by Kathleen Christensen. Direct correspondence to Barbara Schneider, Michigan State University, College of Education, 516 Erickson Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824; email:


Two studies of working families are combined to demonstrate a strategy for producing reliable estimates from the combination of self-reported (large N) and observational (small N) data. Both studies examine where and how dual-career families spend time at home. The 500 Family Study is sociological and uses self-reported time diary data from a national sample; the CELF study is anthropological and uses observational scan sampling data from a regional sample of 32 families. The data are combined as if they constitute one sample, and an analytic solution for establishing the reliability of the resulting composite estimates of time use is provided. Merging the data sets provides validation for each study, neither of which is without potential methodological weaknesses. The advantages of combining data from the independent data collection methods are discussed, and selected substantive findings on families' activities are highlighted, illustrating similarities and differences between findings in the independent and combined data sets. Results show that working families spend significant time in a small spectrum of home spaces, particularly kitchens and living rooms, with leisure activities prevailing, but mothers, fathers, and children differ in where and how they spend their time. Overall, a template for merging data from different disciplines and methods is provided.