Where you at? Using GPS location in an electronic Time Use diary study to derive functional locations


Smartphones enable passive collection of sensor data alongside survey participation. Location data add context to people’s reports about their time use. In addition, linking global positioning system data to self-reported time use surveys (TUSs) can be valuable for understanding how people spend their time. This article investigates whether and how passive collection of geographical locations (coordinates) proves useful for deriving respondents’ functional locations. Participants of the ongoing Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Survey in the Netherlands were invited to participate in a TUS administered with a smartphone app that also unobtrusively tracked respondents’ locations. Respondents reported their activities per 10-min interval in a smartphone diary app (n = 1,339) and shared their geographical location data (n = 1,264). The correspondence between the functional locations derived from the time use data and those derived from the geographical location data was assessed by calculating the percentage of intervals in which both measures are similar. Overall, results show that home locations can be automatically assigned reliably but that respondent information is required to reliably assign work or school locations. In addition, location tracking data contain many measurement errors, making it difficult to record valid locations. Multilevel models show that the variability in correct classifications is intrapersonal and largely predicted by phone type, which determines location measurement frequency.

Social Science Computer Review