Overworked? It’s All in Your Head. The Data Says You Aren’t

According to a recent study published in the Economist, our problem isn't too much work, it's too much money.

AS MOST Americans will tell you if you can stop them long enough to ask, working people in the United States are as busy as ever. Sure, technology and competition are boosting the economy; but nearly everyone thinks they have increased the demands on people at home and in the workplace. But is the overworked American a creature of myth?

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Over the past four decades, depending on which of their measures one uses, the amount of time that working-age Americans are devoting to leisure activities has risen by 4-8 hours a week.

Go ahead and scoff. The authors predict that you will. So how do they explain the seemingly contradictory findings?

Weirdly, prosperity may be to blame in two ways. First, thanks to rising real incomes, an American's time is worth more now. A walk in the park is more expensive than it used to be. (When people complain to him about being too busy, Mr Hamermesh tells them that their real problem is too much money.) Second, economic advances allow people to squeeze ever more possible activities, both work and leisure, into a day, which encourages people to try to do too much.

Dinner out a few nights a week. An hour at the gym. Two hours of email and web surfing. A social gathering almost every weekend. These are things we didn't have a few decades ago.