From May 30 through June 2 the “Future of Labor” Program at IZA held a “Topic Week” meeting on the subject of Non-Market Time in Economics, with generous financing from the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung. Organized by Ana Rute Cardoso (IZA) and Daniel Hamermesh (University of Texas at Austin and IZA), the meeting provided an ideal forum for knowledge exchange on this important topic.
A number of papers considered gender or gender-related issues. Zhong Zhao (IZA) examined how the burden of work at home (activities for which market substitutes might be purchased) affects husbands and wives differently. With data on time use in rural China he developed an unusual measure of wife’s power in the household: whether the child or children are boys, highly preferred in China and some other Asian countries. In the data women did in fact perform smaller shares of household work when their offspring were males (and thus when the women implicitly had more power in the household). Daniel Hamermesh examined the amount of total work – for pay and at home – in 25 countries, showing that in rich non-Mediterranean countries all over the world men and women perform essentially identical amounts of work in total. The study tried to explain this result with a theory of social norms, which seems consistent with evidence that, in countries where both men and women view men as more deserving of scarce jobs, women wind up doing relatively more total work than men. Anzelika Zaiceva (IZA) looked at gender differences in time spent in market work, childcare, religious activities and food preparation/clean-up by ethnicity in the United Kingdom. Ethnic differences – between European-ethnicity Britons and others – in all of these except childcare are greater among women than men.
Two studies examined interactions between husbands’ and wives’ time use. Norbert Neuwirth (University of Vienna) used Austrian time-diary data to examine the extent of interactions of husband’s and wife’s time use. Of particular interest is whether their time is complementary or substitutable. In fact, both types of relations are observed; but the main point is that these interactions are uniquely visible in time-diary data. Rachel Connelly (Bowdoin College) and Jean Kimmel (Western Michigan University) look at a similar issue using the very extensive American time-diary data. Focusing on the fraction of each spouse’s time devoted to each of four major sets of activities, and with special interest in time spent in childcare, they too demonstrate the importance of spousal interactions.
An additional focus of the Topic Week was on trends in time use. Lindsay Tedds (University of Victoria) used Canadian data from 1986 through 2005 to examine trends in leisure, household activities and market work. These time diaries, in which the categories are defined consistently over time, are among the few where such trends can be readily identified. In these data, there is surprising evidence of an increase in time spent in market work on a typical day by both men and women. Scott Fuess (University of Nebraska at Lincoln and IZA) examined trends in leisure in Japan between 1986 and 2001 using time-diary data. With a macroeconomic focus, he showed that, while leisure time has increased, the evidence for greater leisure is not strong when one accounts for changes in unemployment and job opportunities over this period.
Much of the focus of research using time-diary data has been on studying behavior at different stages of the life cycle. One topic of continued interest has been parents’ interactions with children and, more specifically, the burden of childcare. Jay Stewart (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) went beyond the well-known literature on the amount of parental childcare time to examine how market work affects the timing of childcare. He showed that part-time workers are caring for their children at the same times on weekdays and weekends, but that full-time workers’ childcare schedules look substantially different on weekdays from the norm on weekends. Charlene Kalenkoski (Ohio University) used new American data to examine time spent by 15 to 18-year-old teenagers who have not finished secondary school. The particular focus was on the impact on time use of being in a low-income family, with the interesting finding that adolescent girls in poorer households spend more time working in the market and at home, while disadvantaged adolescent boys spend less time in both forms of work. Elsa Fontainha (Technical University of Lisbon) considered how students’ time in school-related activities outside the classroom differs among countries and how it relates to leisure time. In most countries students who devote more time to study outside school devote less time to leisure activities.
A major factor motivating the growing interest in collecting time-diary data is in their potential use in measuring the value of non-market output. Measuring time in such non-market activities as childcare is difficult; valuing each unit, so that one can compare it to market output, particularly GDP, is still more difficult. Killian Mullan (University of Essex) advanced this literature by using British data on both parents’ childcare time and children’s time with parents to give both input and output-based measures of childcare. Using this appropriate dual approach, he calculated a consistent set of measures of the contribution of childcare to total economic activity.
At the other end of the life cycle, Vimal Ranchhod (University of Cape Town) was interested in how substantial income grants to elderly persons might affect time use by other adults in their households. Studying the impact of a large-scale grant received by most poor African households in South Africa using new time-diary data, he showed that a major impact of these grants was to reduce the time that women in the poor households devoted to both home and market production, with much smaller effects on men’s behavior. Marie Connolly (Cornerstone Research) studied a different grant program, the major reform in support to poor households that was instituted in the U.S. in the mid-1990s. While she replicates the accepted result that the program was related to increases in market work by members of poor households, she also shows that this was not accompanied by any decline in time devoted to child care, coming instead at the cost of less leisure, particularly less television-viewing.
Younghwan Song (Union College) studied the role of smoking – and the underlying characteristics that lead people to smoke – on time use. Of particular interest is whether those who have the characteristics that lead one to smoke, but who currently do not smoke, behave differently in their time use than those people who do not smoke. Integrating the American Time Use Survey with other information on its respondents’ smoking activities, he showed that former smokers behave differently from never-smokers – they do less work for pay, and spend more time eating and drinking. Indeed, they behave much more like current smokers than never-smokers.
Volunteer activities are important in all countries and are a particular focus of policy interest in the United States. Sara Helms (University of Alabama at Birmingham) examined this issue in the context of inferring trends in volunteer activity. The difficulty is in measuring the amount of volunteer activity – even defining it is difficult. One might hope that time-diary data would be more reliable; but Helms showed that, because those who volunteer are also much more likely to respond to questionnaires, such data are no more use in obtaining accurate measures of the total amount of volunteer activity than data from other types of surveys. Her study also showed that the much-publicized decline in volunteering in the U.S. may merely be an artifact of decreasing response rates on surveys aimed at measuring volunteer activity.
In addition to the papers presented, two distinguished experts on time-use data and household economics gave special lectures: Robert Pollak (Washington University-St. Louis and IZA) discussed the economic theory of time use in the household, with particular focus on spousal sharing of tasks and marital bargaining. Joachim Merz (University of Lüneburg and IZA) presented examples of how time-diary data might be used to answer a variety of questions about work-hours flexibility and the impact of public holidays. Furthermore, Georgios Tassoukis (IZA Database Manager) lectured about how researchers worldwide could readily use the IZA International Data Service Center and mainly the extremely rich German Zeitbudgeterhebungen (1991/2 and 2001/2), which are available – with confidentiality restrictions – for use through the IZA secure data-access site. Several of the researchers present are now modifying their work to include these additional datasets. All papers and lectures of this IZA Topic Week are downloadable from the program page.