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The Economics of Workaholism: We Should Not Have Worked on this Paper

31 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2005 Last revised: 10 Aug 2010

Daniel S. Hamermesh

University of Texas at Austin - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Joel B. Slemrod

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Date Written: August 2005

Abstract

A large literature examines the addictive properties of such behaviors as smoking, drinking alcohol and eating. We argue that for some people addictive behavior may apply to a much more central aspect of economic life: working. Workaholism is subject to the same concerns about the individual as other addictions, is more likely to be a problem of higher-income individuals, and can, under conditions of jointness in the workplace or the household, generate negative spillovers onto individuals around the workaholic. Using the Retirement History Survey and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we find evidence that is consistent with the idea that high-income, highly educated people suffer from workaholism with regard to retiring, in that they are more likely to postpone earlier plans for retirement. The evidence and theory suggest that the negative effects of workaholism can be addressed with a more progressive income tax system than would be appropriate in the absence of this behavior.

Suggested Citation

Hamermesh, Daniel S. and Slemrod, Joel B., The Economics of Workaholism: We Should Not Have Worked on this Paper (August 2005). NBER Working Paper No. w11566. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=788431

Daniel S. Hamermesh (Contact Author)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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University of Texas at Austin - Department of Economics ( email )

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Joel B. Slemrod

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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