Economists spend a lot of time talking about money inequality, but here’s the flipside.
The Increase in Leisure Inequality
Mark Aguiar and Erik Hurst
This paper examines the changing allocation of time within the United States that has occurred between 1965 and 2003-2005. We find that the time individuals have allocated to leisure has increased in the U.S. for both men and women during this period, with almost the entire gain occurring prior to 1985. We also find that post 1985 there has been a substantial increase in leisure inequality, particularly for men. Over the last 20 years, less educated men increased the time they allocated to leisure while more educated men recorded a decrease in leisure time. While the relative decline in the employment rate of less educated men is important, trends in employment status explain less than half of the increase in the leisure gap.
The paper is careful in that it uses time diary evidence (rather than just assuming that leisure is just 24 hours minus number of hours worked). Still, leisure can be involuntary, so on the Aguiar-Hurst definition,Â the Great Depression was a time of much leisure. What’s interesting about this paper is that it’s almost the mirror image of the Australian workÂ that my colleague Bob Gregory has been doing on the declining number of low-skilled full time jobs, particularly for men.