Inequality in the Joint Distribution of Consumption and Time Use
This paper examines inequality in both leisure and consumption over the past four decades using time use surveys stretching from 1975 to 2016. We show that individual and family characteristics, especially when including work hours, explain most of the long run variation in leisure. We then use these characteristics to predict the distribution of leisure in the Consumer Expenditure Survey, a survey that also provides detailed information on consumption. The advantage of this approach is that it gives us measures of consumption and leisure at the family level within a single data source. We find that leisure time is highest for families at the bottom of the consumption distribution, and typically declines monotonically as consumption rises. However, the consumption-leisure gradient is small. We find noticeable differences across family types, with the gradient being largest for single parent families and single individuals and smallest for families with a head age 65 or older. Overall, these results indicate that including both leisure and consumption, as opposed to just consumption, in a measure of economic well-being will result in less inequality. However, because the consumption-leisure gradient is not very steep, the dampening effect of leisure on overall inequality is small.
Earlier versions of the paper were titled “Economic Well-Being and Time Use.” We would like to thank Grace Finley, Lorenz Kueng and Daniel Reck for helpful comments, Erik Hurst and Justin Wolfers for helpful discussions on an earlier version of this paper, and Janna Johnson, Nikolas Mittag, and Kevin Rinz for excellent research assistance. We also thank the Russell Sage, Alfred P. Sloan, and Charles Koch Foundations for their support, and seminar participants at George Washington University, the University of Notre Dame, and the Society of Labor Economists Annual Meeting for their comments. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Forthcoming: Inequality in the Joint Distribution of Consumption and Time Use, Jeehoon Han, Bruce D. Meyer, James X. Sullivan. in Trans-Atlantic Public Economics Seminar 2018, Hoynes, Landais, and Spinnewijn. 2018
Jeehoon Han & Bruce D. Meyer & James X. Sullivan, 2020. "Inequality in the joint distribution of consumption and time use," Journal of Public Economics, .