Recessions and Time Use

Over at the Washington Post, Sarah Kliff had an interesting article late last week on the changing ways we’ve spent our time during a recession. While there have been articles about an alleged “Speed Up,” the overall reality during a recession is that the number of hours worked per person falls. This is because a higher percentage of people are unemployed, or have their hours cut, and self-employed workers may not have as many projects keeping them busy.

All of this suggests that people would have more free time. So how do they allocate it? A recent paper explored this concept, and found that people spent some more time on housework and childcare, some more on sleep and television, but less on socializing. That’s interesting because of all those choices, socializing would be the one most likely to reduce the feelings of listlessness and depression that can come with joblessness. Catching up on sleep sounds nice, but according to the American Time Use Survey, Americans already sleep more than 8 hours per night. As for TV? It’s the ultimate in cheap entertainment, though Americans don’t rate it as particularly pleasurable.

All that extra television has an effect, according to Kliff’s article. Another recent article found that we may be watching more political ads and pundits, and so areas with depressed wages (and as a corollary, more people not working as much as they want) show higher turnout in mid-term elections. It’s not so much that voters are mad as hell about the economy… they’ve just learned more about the election, and so bother to vote.

2 thoughts on “Recessions and Time Use

  1. Any tips for how to get back into it after the long weekend! ? Socializing can be a lot of work but one of the most rewarding things is having a network… we had a cookout yesterday and spent money and time on food and prep work but one of my friends offered to do a babysitting co op with me and I built another friend for my daughter and several folks brought new foods and wine and dessert so in addition to great hamburger, I got to try some new things! I think exercise and socializing and social networks are even more important for working moms who are under a lot of stress and they are one of the first things people cut!

  2. Socializing costs either time or money. Even when your work hours have been cut, there are time/money tradeoffs to be made. For example, my husband recaulked and will paint the south end of our house and the shed. If I were still working, we likely would have hired out the house painting. Given that someone has to watch the children (two year old twins and a 4 year old around a 5 gallon bucket of paint requires supervision), I still couldn’t just go socialize.

    I AM puzzled why people without young children don’t go for walks with friends, etc. I did that a lot before young children and, now that my children are FINALLY sleeping through the night often, hope to rise early for a 6:30 walk with a friend from work. Perhaps people count clubbing/going out to eat/drink as “socializing” and don’t think of going for a walk with a friend as “socializing.”

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