Leisure Inequality a Mirror Image of Income Inequality: Study

The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of global household wealth according to a recent study. But those at the bottom of the the income spectrum seem to have more time at their hands, as during the last 30 years high-wage workers spent more time working and left with less leisure time. 

According to a new study "MEASURING TRENDS IN LEISURE: THE ALLOCATION OF TIME OVER FIVE DECADES" by Mark Aguiar and Erik Hurst, documents a growing inequality in leisure that is the mirror image of the growing inequality of wages and expenditures, making welfare calculation based solely on wealth and income incomplete.

The paper findings include:

  • Leisure increased by 6.2 hours per week for men and by 4.9 hours per week for women between 1965 and 2003, adjusting for changing demographics.

  • In 1965 the average man spent 61 hours per week and the average women spent 55 hours per week in combined market and nonmarket work.

  • Men with a college degree experienced no change in Leisure between 1965 and 2003. Male high school dropouts, on the other hand, experienced an increase of 12.2 hours per week and male high school graduates experienced an increase of 7.3 hours per week. 

  • The corresponding increase for female college graduates is 1.3 hours per week versus 7.9 hours per week for high school dropouts and 6.3 hours per week for high school graduates.

  • At the turn of the 20th century, low-wage workers worked longer hours than high-wageworkers. This differential disappeared by the early 1970s, and during the last 30 years high-wage workers supplied relatively more market hours.

This study focuses exclusively on the United States. Their  narrowest measure of leisure sums together all time spent on “entertainment/social activities/relaxing” and “active recreation”

How do Americans spend their new free time? Overwhelmingly, staring at the idiot box.  Reading and socialising have dropped, despite the newfound leisure.  For more discussion, check at Economist blog.

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