Evolution of Daily Activity Patterns from 1971 to 1981: A Study of the Halifax Activity Panel Survey


  • Andrew S. Harvey Saint Mary’s University, Halifax Nova Scotia
  • Clarke Wilson Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Ottawa Ontario




Episode sequences from diaries are the richest source of information about daily activities of individuals and households available to social scientists. Their use has been advocated as an approach to urban planning that incorporates explicit consideration of the demands made by daily life on the built environment. The paper examines sequences of daily activities and activities augmented by data on their settings (including location and the presence of other people) to measure change in daily behaviour from 1971 to 1981. Diaries were supplied by respondents to the Halifax panel study carried out at Dalhousie University. Episode sequences are analysed using alignment methods, also called optimal matching, developed in molecular biology. These are implemented through the ClustalG multiple alignment program package. Alignment methods define similarity measures between character strings, which can be used to measure the similarity of two persons’ daily activities, to measure change over time, or to determine the relative similarity of three or more activity diaries. The results of the research showed that both pure activities and activity-settings identified broadly the same behvioural groupings: employed workers, domestic workers, and weekend activities. The similarity of activity patterns of individuals was greater over the ten-year analysis period than the average similarity of the sample in either 1971 or 1981. The average similarity of activity and activitysetting patterns rose from 1971 to 1981, which contradicts observations that daily routines are becoming more complex and diverse.