Friday, February 24, 2006

Leisure, Labor, and Leisure-Labor

A person can divide his or her time between one of three pursuits: leisure--hanging out with friends, riding a bike, watching a movie; labor--working for pay; or leisure-labor--non-market work like mowing the lawn, washing the dishes, and cleaning the gutters.

With that in mind, think about the progression of American working women since the 1960s. In the early '60s many women devoted their energy entirely to non-market work. Over time, more and more women entered the labor market, taking paid work alongside men. A research paper by economists Erik Hurst and Mark Aguiar chronicles the change in women's work habits from 1965 to 2003. Early on, women felt the pinch on their leisure time as they tried to balance non-market work at home with paid work outside of it. As women continued to enter the paid workforce in the '70s, '80s, and '90s, their amount of leisure time changed. What does a 21st-century woman's time allocation between leisure, labor, and non-market work look like? Read Virginia Postrel's New York Times commentary to find out.

1. Does the average American work more hours for pay than he or she used to? How do economists define leisure? What definition of leisure do Hurst and Aguiar use in their research?

2. How much more weekly leisure time did the average American have in 2003 compared to 1965?

3. Where did most of the increase in men's leisure time come from? Where did most of the increase in women's leisure time come from?

4. What happened to the amount of time women devote to non-market work--like house cleaning and cooking--between 1965 and 2003? What happened to the demand for microwaves and restaurant take-out?

5. Men with low educational attainment work a lot less than they did in 1965. How are they spending their time?

Topics: Labor, Leisure time, Women in the workforce


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