The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline Of Leisure

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9780465054343: The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline Of Leisure

This pathbreaking book explains why, contrary to all expectations, Americans are working harder than ever. Juliet Schor presents the astonishing news that over the past twenty years our working hours have increased by the equivalent of one month per year—a dramatic spurt that has hit everybody: men and women, professionals as well as low-paid workers. Why are we—unlike every other industrialized Western nation—repeatedly ”choosing” money over time? And what can we do to get off the treadmill?

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About the Author:

Juliet Schor is associate professor of economics at Harvard University

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

According to my estimates, the average employed person is now on the job an additional 163 hours, or the equivalent of an extra month a year [up from 20 years ago]. Hours have been increasing throughout the twenty-year period for which we have data. The breakdown for men and women shows lengthening hours for both groups, but there is a "gender gap" in the size of the increase. Men are working nearly 98 more hours per year, or two and a half extra weeks. Women are doing about 305 additional hours, which translates to seven and a half weeks, or 38 added days of work each year. The research shows that hours have risen across a wide spectrum of Americans and in all income categories-low, middle and high.

Laundry provides the best example of how technology failed to reduce labor time. During the period from 1925 to 1965, automatic washers and dryers were introduced. The new machines did cut the time needed to wash and dry a load of clothes. Yet laundry time rose. The reason was that housewives were doing more loads-in part, because investment in household-level capital undermined commercial establishments. Laundry that had previously been sent out began to stay home. At the same time, standards of cleanliness went up.

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