Trends in Hours: The U.S. From 1900 to 1950
25 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2008 Last revised: 14 Dec 2008
Date Written: 2008
During the first half of the 20th century the length of the workweek in the United States declined, and its distribution across wage deciles narrowed. The hypothesis is twofold. First, technological progress, through the rise in wages and the decreasing cost of recreation, made it possible for the average U.S. worker to afford more time off from work. Second, changes in the wage distribution explain the changes in the distribution of hours. A general equilibrium model is built to explore whether such mechanisms can quantitatively account for the observations. The model is calibrated to the U.S. economy in 1900. It predicts 82% of the observed decline in hours, and most of the contraction in their dispersion. The decline in the price of leisure goods accounts for seven percent of the total decline in hours.
Keywords: Hours worked, leisure, home production, technological progress
JEL Classification: E24, J22, O11, O33
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