Wednesday, August 29, 2007

All Things Just Keep Getting Better

Today on NPR, labor economist Eric Hurst was on to debunk the common myth that Americans are working harder and harder. In truth, leisure time over the past fifty years have risen. Men are spending more time not working than their counterparts from half a century ago. Women are spending more time in the office, but they are working less in the home--housewives are no longer the standard. Indeed, Americans work little compared to other countries with 18% working more than 48 hours a week. Compare this with other countries, especially developing countries. In Peru, half of all surveyed work more than 48 hours a week.

Hurst chalked up this increase in productivity to modern inventions--dishwashers, microwaves, and so forth. All true. But one cannot ignore the role of a rising population and the division of labor. Housekeepers are no longer for the rich. Not only are people earning more, not only are they--on average--working less, there are now far more people earning more and working less. It astonishes me how people can be so pessimistic about the future.

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