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.