Work Hours and Worker Happiness in the US: Weekly Hours, Hours Preferences and Schedule Flexibility
27 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2015
Date Written: February 10, 2015
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: Suggested Citation