Overworked?

by John Quiggin on October 18, 2007

Following up my post on consumption and living standards in the US, there was a fair bit of discussion of what’s been happening to leisure. Juliet Schor and others have argued that the long-term trend towards reduced hours of work and more leisure reversed some time in the 1970s, and people have been working harder since then. A study by Aguair and Hurst (the final QJE article is subscription-only, but I found a preliminary version here) has been widely quoted as proving the opposite (here, for example, by Tyler Cowen) and the abstract seems to support this interpretation, saying “We find that a dramatic increase in leisure time lies behind the relatively stable number of market hours worked between 1965 and 2003.”

However the data periods don’t exactly match up. It turns out that, using any of the definitions of leisure considered by Aguair and Hurst, the majority of the increase in leisure time took place between 1965 and 1975, and most measures show little change since 1985.

There’s an important gender/family dimension too. On Aguair and Hurst measures 1 and 2 (which exclude child care), leisure time for women peaked in 1985 or 1993 and has declined since then, while leisure time for men has been increased marginally since 1985.

So that readers can make their own comparisons, I’ve extracted the relevant table, which is over the fold. I’d say it matches Schor’s story (increasing leisure until the late 70s followed by a decline) at least as well as that suggested by the authors (“dramatic” long-term increases in leisure)

There’s lots more data in the Aguiar and Hirst paper and one point worth noting is that the trend in the distribution of leisure time is the opposite of that in income. High income, high education people have experienced a significant decline in leisure relative to those with low income and low education. That somewhat offsets the growth in income inequality over the same period. Also, combined with the gender pattern I already mentioned, it almost certainly means that educated women have, on average, less leisure than in the late 1970s.

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The Demise of Liberal Internationalism

by Henry on October 18, 2007

Charles Kupchan and Peter Trubowitz have an “article”:http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/isec.2007.32.2.7 in the new _International Security_ declaring that liberal internationalism is dead.

The prevailing wisdom is that the Bush administration’s assertive unilateralism, its aversion to international institutions, and its zealous efforts to spread democracy in the Middle East represent a temporary departure from the United States’ traditional foreign policy. … Indeed, influential think tanks and foreign policy groups are already churning out action plans for reviving liberal internationalism. …We challenge this view and contend instead that the Bush administration’s brand of international engagement, far from being an aberration, represents a turning point in the historical trajectory of U.S. foreign policy. It is a symptom, as much as a cause, of the unraveling of the liberal internationalist compact that guided the United States for much of the second half of the twentieth century.

The polarization of the United States has dealt a severe blow to the bipartisan compact between power and cooperation. Instead of adhering to the vital center, the country’s elected officials, along with the public, are backing away from the liberal internationalist compact, supporting either U.S. power or international cooperation, but rarely both. … Prominent voices from across the political spectrum have called for the restoration of a robust bipartisan center that can put U.S. grand strategy back on track. … These exhortations are in vain. The halcyon era of liberal internationalism is over; the bipartisan compact between power and partnership has been effectively dismantled.

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