Why Do People Overwork? Over-Supply of Hours of Labor, Labor Market Forces and Adaptive Preferences

THE LONG WORK HOURS CULTURE: CAUSES, CONSEQUENCES AND CHOICES, Ronald Burke, Cary Cooper, eds., pp.61-83, Emerald Group Publishing, 2008

33 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2008 Last revised: 2 Mar 2009

See all articles by Lonnie Golden

Lonnie Golden

Pennsylvania State University - Abington College; Economic Policy Institute; Project for Middle Class Renewal

Morris Altman

University of Newcastle

Date Written: 2008

Abstract

Several key trends across most advanced economic economies have increased both desired hours of work and the salience of working time on well-being. Models in the economics discipline offer both labor supply and labor demand reasons to explain why many people might be willing to work longer hours. The standard microeconomic model of individual labor supply provides a minimalist approach that is no more than a starting point in understanding work hours trends and consequent worker well-being. This paper first establishes the range of factors that determine how many hours a worker wishes to and actually works. It synthesizes findings from conventional and behavioral economics, and related disciplines, to answer the question, what might cause workers' hours of work to climb? There are both push and pull mechanisms jointly at work. Such mechanisms may exist at the organizational, community, national and perhaps even global levels. It goes on to explore the notion that someone can be working too much, for their own good, or at least possibly for the family or economy. It explores the potential feedbacks between long hours, overemployment and overwork and raises the possibility for endogeneity of desired labor supply through adaptive preferences for work and income. Finally, it briefly considers implications for individual, organizational and public policy actions to counter the potential persistence of long work hours and overemployment.

Keywords: hours of work, labor supply, overwork, working time, workaholism, overemployment

JEL Classification: J22, J23

Suggested Citation

Golden, Lonnie and Altman, Morris, Why Do People Overwork? Over-Supply of Hours of Labor, Labor Market Forces and Adaptive Preferences (2008). THE LONG WORK HOURS CULTURE: CAUSES, CONSEQUENCES AND CHOICES, Ronald Burke, Cary Cooper, eds., pp.61-83, Emerald Group Publishing, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1081245

Lonnie Golden (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University - Abington College ( email )

1600 Woodland Rd.
Abington, PA 19001
United States
215-881-7596 (Phone)
215-881-7333 (Fax)

Economic Policy Institute ( email )

1660 L Street NW, Suite 1200
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Project for Middle Class Renewal ( email )

1408 W. Gregory Dr.
Urbana, IL 61801
United States

Morris Altman

University of Newcastle ( email )

University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308
Australia

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