NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Measuring Trends in Leisure: The Allocation of Time Over Five Decades

Mark Aguiar, Erik Hurst

NBER Working Paper No. 12082
Issued in March 2006
NBER Program(s):   EFG   LS

In this paper, we use five decades of time-use surveys to document trends in the allocation of time. We find that a dramatic increase in leisure time lies behind the relatively stable number of market hours worked (per working-age adult) between 1965 and 2003. Specifically, we show that leisure for men increased by 6-8 hours per week (driven by a decline in market work hours) and for women by 4-8 hours per week (driven by a decline in home production work hours). This increase in leisure corresponds to roughly an additional 5 to 10 weeks of vacation per year, assuming a 40-hour work week. Alternatively, the "consumption equivalent" of the increase in leisure is valued at 8 to 9 percent of total 2003 U.S. consumption expenditures. We also find that leisure increased during the last 40 years for a number of sub-samples of the population, with less-educated adults experiencing the largest increases. Lastly, we document a growing "inequality" in leisure that is the mirror image of the growing inequality of wages and expenditures, making welfare calculation based solely on the latter series incomplete.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12082

Published: Aguiar, Mark and Erik Hurst. “Measuring Leisure: The Allocation of Time over Five Decades.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 122, 3 (August 2007): 969-1006.

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