Wednesday, July 26, 2017

27/7/17: Work or Play: Snowflakes or Millennials?

Snowflakes or Millennials? Flaky or serious? Careless or full of determination? Attitudes or aptitudes? Well, here’s an interesting study on the younger generation.

“Younger men, ages 21 to 30, exhibited a larger decline in work hours over the last fifteen years than older men or women.” In other words, average hours of labour supplied have fallen for the younger males more than for the older cohorts of workers. Which can be a matter of labour demand (external to workers’ choice) or supply (internal to workers’ choice).

One recent NBER study (see below) claims that “since 2004, time-use data show that younger men distinctly shifted their leisure to video gaming and other recreational computer activities.”

So we have two facts running simultaneously. What about a connection between the two?

“We propose a framework to answer whether improved leisure technology played a role in reducing younger men's labor supply. The starting point is a leisure demand system that parallels that often estimated for consumption expenditures. We show that total leisure demand is especially sensitive to innovations in leisure luxuries, that is, activities that display a disproportionate response to changes in total leisure time.” Economics mumbo jumbo aside, the authors “estimate that gaming/recreational computer use is distinctly a leisure luxury for younger men. Moreover, we calculate that innovations to gaming/recreational computing since 2004 explain on the order of half the increase in leisure for younger men, and predict a decline in market hours of 1.5 to 3.0 percent, which is 38 and 79 percent of the differential decline relative to older men.”

Some data from the study:

So it looks like this data suggests that attitude beats aptitude, and choices we make about our recreational activities do cramp our decisions how much time to devote to paid work.

Full citation: Aguiar, Mark and Bils, Mark and Charles, Kerwin Kofi and Hurst, Erik, Leisure Luxuries and the Labor Supply of Young Men (June 2017). NBER Working Paper No. w23552. Available at SSRN:

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