Bad Economic Paper of the Day

Over time, increases in hours of work per capita have created the intuitively plausible notion that there is less time available to pursue social interactions. The specific question addressed in this paper is the effect of hours of work on social interaction. This is a difficult empirical question since omitted factors could increase both hours of work and social interaction. The approach taken in this paper utilizes an exogenous decline in hours of work in France due to a new employment law. The results clearly show that the employment law reduced hours of work but there is no evidence that the extra hours went to increased social interactions. Although hours of work are not an important determinant of social interaction, human capital is found to be important. The effect of human capital, as measured by education and age, is positive for membership groups but negative for visiting relatives and friends. Also, contrary to expectations, there are no important differences in the determinants of social interaction by gender, marital status or parent status. Finally, a comparison between France and the US show that the response to human capital and other variables are much the same in both nations.

Via Tyler (who else?).

As the full paper is gated no, I\’ve not read it, but that summary shows something of a glaring problem.

They\’re failing to make the distinction between paid work in the market economy and unpaid work in the domestic or household one.

For example, increases in the hours of work per capita over time: this is true only of work in the paid or market economy for women. Over the timescale of decades market economy work for men has fallen and domestic work for both sexes has. Net result is fewer working hours in total and more leisure time for both sexes.

Now, whether the French exogenous shock of the 35 hour work week meant more hours of domestic work is another matter: but to be failing to make the distinction between the two forms of work makes moot any of the papers conclusions.*


*On the assumption, of course, that the full paper doesn\’t discuss and account for this.

Update: I\’ve been kindly sent the paper (Thanks Edward!) and no, they don\’t make the appropriate distinction.

The increase in female labor force participation has increased hours of work per capita which may have had an affect on social interaction.

Working hours per capita in the paid economy have risen for women. Total working hours for both men and women have fallen. As above, not making that distinction means the paper doesn\’t mean all that much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *