Wednesday, September 15, 2004


What is the Zeitgeist to do with data from the BLS that we are not all overworked wage slaves?
We'll have to see.

Most social science data involve stuff that is transacted and taxed. Time diaries are few and far between and this new regular feature of federal data reporting is welcome.

Economists have always been keen to see how we respond when money prices change. It is probably as useful to know how we react to time prices. A standard question was always about how people handle worsening highway congestion. But time costs also fall. We have a much easier time accessing data of all sorts these days. (I am old enough to recall double-parking outside libraries, running around, searching and trying to find dimes to xerox precious pages, etc.).

Once this new data series gets rolling, we will know a lot more about how our activity choices respond to changing money costs. There are units and definitions to agree on but this will all be great fun.

Here is some of the story from the WSJ:

September 15, 2004

"New Study Suggests Americans Aren't Overworked After All"
By ALONSO SOLO and JON E. HILSENRATH Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNALSeptember 15, 2004; Page D2
"The high-tech economy and global competition may be increasing pressure on everyone to work harder and longer, but a new study suggests full-time U.S. workers still put in a standard eight-hour day and, in general, Americans get plenty of sleep.
"The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the first of a new series of surveys on time use here, found Americans over the age of 15 on average sleep 8.6 hours a day and full-time workers on average clock in 8.1 hours on the job. That's more work than occurs in many European countries, but still leaves time for other activities.
"The findings also confirmed the picture of an increasingly sedentary society that spends about eight times more time a day (2.57 hours) watching television than exercising (0.3 hour) and three times more than socializing (0.78 hour).
"Here is a list of who spends the most amount of time on certain daily activities.
• Eating and Drinking Men 65 years and older (1.65 hours) • Household Activities Women 65 and older (3.06 hours) • Shopping Women (0.96 hours) • Caring for Family Members Women 25-34 years (1.64 hours) • Caring for Non-Family Members Women 55-64 years (0.52 hours) • Phone Calls, Mail, E-mail Women 65 and older (0.36 hours)
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
"Using data from interviews with 21,000 Americans across a cross section of the population last year, the American Time Use Survey aims to analyze the American worker's behavior and provide a fuller picture of how Americans use free time. Updates will be conducted annually.
Economists are increasingly drawn to time-use studies to examine issues ranging from climbing obesity rates to productivity of the nation's work force. Productivity measures, for instance, are influenced by how many hours individuals spend at work. By getting a fuller picture of the workday, economists might get a better understanding of the forces underlying productivity trends, which are essential to economic growth. Obesity, meanwhile, could be an offshoot of the sedentary lifestyle.
"'Certainly, the most salient fact [in the report] is the vast number of hours spent watching television,'" said Edward Glaeser, a Harvard economics professor. "'This is in line with previous studies, but the numbers remain staggering.'"
"BLS researchers said men work about an hour more (8.01 hours on average among full- and part-time workers) than women do (7.06 hours among full- and part-time workers), but working women are juggling more responsibilities: They spend about an hour more a day than working men doing household activities and caring for household members.
"To be sure, a detailed breakdown of the data showed that not all workers are putting in standard hours. Male full-time workers, for instance, on average spent 8.7 hours on the job on weekdays. And 33% of all survey respondents said they spent some time working on weekends or holidays.
"The survey provides insight into the increased incidence of telecommuting. Nearly one in five Americans -- 18.6 million individuals -- reported spending time working at home. Well-educated workers were the most likely to bring their work home. Thirty-three percent of college graduates, or 9.6 million individuals, do some work from home, compared with 13% among workers with no more than a high-school degree.
"Economists said the findings would help track nonmarket activities that are important to better understand the nation's economy. "Time use is critical for our economy," said Steven Landefeld, director of the Commerce Department Bureau of Economic Analysis, which produces monthly estimates of gross domestic product, the broadest measure available of the nation's output of goods and services. "This is one of the widest gaps we have with our knowledge of the U.S. economy."