Work Hours and Worker Happiness in the US: Weekly Hours, Hours Preferences and Schedule Flexibility

27 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2015

See all articles by Lonnie Golden

Lonnie Golden

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

Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden

Date Written: February 10, 2015

Abstract

This research explores the relationship between three different dimensions of work hours with individuals’ reported level of happiness — its duration, mismatch with preferences and flexibility over its timing. Using pooled data from the US General Social Survey (1972-2012) and two of its modules, we find many nuances in the association of the weekly duration of work hours and happiness level among those employed. This includes patterns by occupation, such as managerial-administrative vis-à-vis others, income levels and size of geographical location of work. Working hours just below 40 hours per week tends to be associated inversely with happiness, and also in the shortest hours of work bracket, depending on control variables. Happiness is also frequently lower at the level of weekly hours just above the 40-hour standard. In contrast, working very long hours is associated positively with happiness. However, this is virtually all attributable to the income level of the worker. Alternative indicators of work hours duration largely reinforce these findings. In addition, being underemployed — below one’s preferred workweek, willing to work longer, regardless of hours duration — is consistently associated with reduced happiness level. We offer possible explanations for these “underemployed worker” and “happy worker” effects in the US institutional context. Finally, indicators of flexibility employee-centered, such as setting of one’s work schedule, are strongly associated with greater happiness, robust through all control variables. The findings may provide support for public policies that are intended to curb both the incidence and extent of worker underemployment and to promote a legal right of employees to request and receive a preferred minimum workweek and/or reconfiguration of the duration, timing and flexibility of their work hours or schedule, in the pursuit of individual and national happiness.

Keywords: happiness, subjective well-being, life satisfaction, working hours, workplace flexibility, work hours preferences, underemployment

JEL Classification: I31, J22

Suggested Citation

Golden, Lonnie and Okulicz-Kozaryn, Adam, Work Hours and Worker Happiness in the US: Weekly Hours, Hours Preferences and Schedule Flexibility (February 10, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2563374 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2563374

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

Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden ( email )

Camden, NJ 08102
United States

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