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Posts Tagged ‘Leisure’

A Silver Lining to Unemployment?

Friday’s labor-force data brought liberal outcries, and a comment from Ben Bernanke, that the drop in labor-force participation indicates unemployment is really much higher, and the economy in worse shape, than the 7.3 percent unemployment rate might indicate.  It is true that participation for men is at a postwar low and has decreased by 3-1/2 percentage points since the 2007 cyclical peak; and women’s participation stopped rising in 1999 and has fallen by 2 percentage points since the peak.

Is this so bad? Yes, if labor-force leavers are desperate to work and just get discouraged.  But perhaps no; perhaps it has taken the Great Recession to get Americans to realize that we shouldn’t be working harder than people in other rich countries and should be enjoying more leisure.  If this is so, perhaps there’s a silver lining in what so many people view as the economic doldrums of the last three years.

Pedaling and Charging

People multitask (in economists’ language, “engage in joint production”) in a surprising variety of ways.  A neat example appeared in Brussels Airport, with a sign saying “charge your phone and laptop.” But the charging was done by you sitting on a saddle and peddling a machine that generated the power charging your device.  This combination of activities illustrates the difficulty in classifying activities:  Was it work or was it leisure (exercise), to pick two of the major aggregates that I use in my research?  Was it an investment of time or was it consumption?  In this and many other ways, changing technology renders rapidly obsolete the categories we have created to classify things and activities.

Recession Time Survey: 30% of Foregone Work Hours Spent on Sleep, Watching TV

Even after a decent jobs report earlier this month, unemployment is still over 9%. The underemployment rate? That’s 16%, and includes part-time workers who’d rather be full-time, plus people who’ve simply stopped looking for a job. So what are we doing with all that extra free time?
A new study by economists from Princeton and the University of Chicago breaks it down. The bulk of foregone market work time during the recent recession, they say, is spent on leisure.
Here’s the abstract:

Self-Controlled Vacations

A week in a condominium in the Tuscan hills—all courtesy of the exchange of our own time share unit. Is this a good economic deal for us? In a narrow sense, no: the exchange fee, plus the annual fee in the “time share bank,” plus the taxes and upkeep on our own time-share unit almost equal what it would cost to rent the Tuscan unit for a week.
But: having an unused time-share week being wasted imposes psychic costs on us—and that forces us to take a one-week vacation. Also, the time-share bank provides information on a pre-selected set of vacation units, thus saving us search costs. We’re quite happy to pay for a self-control mechanism and pay to reduce the transaction costs of arranging a vacation.

Would You Retire for a Buyout?

The College of Liberal Arts at UT is offering its first ever “buyout.” If a faculty member retires at the end of this semester, s/he receives two years of pay as a lump sum. To be eligible, the sum of age plus years at UT must be at least 93. Of the 88 eligibles, I’m told that over 40 are taking the buyout.

What’s Your Family Vacation Nightmare? A Freakonomics Quorum

Over the past several weeks, we’ve hosted discussions on obesity, street charity, real estate, and environmental conservation. Here now is a quorum that lets people relive the just-about-gone summer. The participants below were asked the following question: What’s your idea of a nightmare family vacation? Here are their responses. Feel free to give yours as well. Dan Gilbert, Harvard psychology . . .

Leisure Squared

More on Dubner and Levitt’s discussion of work v. leisure: Stitch ‘N Pitch, a group of knitters at baseball games

Gold Farmers on the Web

It seems that there are few things more fun than playing massive multiplayer online role-playing games like World of Warcraft. I don’t play these games, but an incredible number of people do, investing significant amounts of time and money in them. Last week, the New York Times Magazine published an article on what it seems to consider the dark side . . .

Another Economist Heard From in the Leisure/Work Debate

We are still getting e-mails, like this one, concerning our New York Times column a while back about the leisure/work distinctions in “hobbies” like gardening, cooking, knitting, etc. But the following message, from economist Shoshana Grossbard, is easily among the best. She teaches at San Diego State and is the founding editor of the Review of Economics of the Household. . . .

Mark Twain on the Leisure/Work Divide

We got an e-mail the other day from John Yinger, a professor of economics and public administration at Syracuse University. It went, in part, like this: By coincidence, I read a chapter of “Tom Sawyer” to my 10-year-old son the day your column on leisure time came out. It’s the famous chapter on whitewashing the fence. Here’s how it ends: . . .

Freakonomics in the Times Magazine: Laid-Back Labor

In their May 6, 2007, column for the New York Times Magazine, Dubner and Levitt wonder: Why do Americans spend so much time and money performing menial tasks when they don’t have to? What’s with all the knitting, gardening, and – as the Census Bureau dubs it – “cooking for fun”? Why do we fill our hours with leisure activities that look an awful lot like work? Click here to read the article and here to comment. This blog post supplies additional research material.

The Joys of Menial Labor

We have a new column in this week’s New York Times Magazine, which is a special issue on the boomer generation. Our piece is called “Laid-Back Labor,” and it actually germinated from a blog post here a few months ago. Here’s one paragraph from the column: Isn’t it puzzling that so many middle-aged Americans are spending so much of their . . .