Report on the Second Conference of the International Research Consortium on the Economics of Time Use


The conference was held on May 26/27, 2003 at the Chateau Saint Gerlach in the Netherlands. The first meeting, held in May 2002 at IZA in Bonn, was a "pre-conference", in which members presented early drafts of the papers that were slated for the second, and final conference. The conference consisted of papers covering issues in time use based on data from Australia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Time use data typically are collected in "time-budget" surveys, in which researchers or, more typically, government agencies develop large samples of citizens who, in addition to the usual demographic and economic information, maintain diaries of what they were doing at each hour of the previous day. For example, the participant is asked to complete a diary on Tuesday morning, showing his or her activities during the Monday. Such data are the only vehicle we have for investigating a huge variety of issues in the behavior of labor, and they are becoming increasingly available. The central point of the conference was not international comparisons using these data. Rather, it was to induce economists, who have examined time-use data much less frequently than other social scientists, to develop economic ways of thinking about time use and hence to stimulate further research in these issues.

Among the 11 papers was a study by Stephen Jenkins (University of Essex and IZA) and Lars Osberg (Dalhousie University), "Nobody to Play With," examining whether the presence of people with similar demographic backgrounds affects an individual's leisure time activities. Using longitudinal British data, they show that where and when there are people who are more similar demographically to an individual, that individual will engage in more leisure-time activities that are done with a group rather than solo. The findings have implications for the social integration of communities.

Nina Smith (University of Aarhus and IZA) and her colleagues Nabanita Gupta and Jens Bonke use Danish data to examine the impact of the amount of housework that people do on their wages and particularly on the male-female wage gap. They conclude that the impact of the amount of time spent at home on wages is minor. The kinds of tasks performed at home, however, do matter, with women performing the preponderance of tasks whose timing is inflexible-such as bathing children, cooking meals, etc.

In their study "Timing Constraints and the Allocation of Time," Joyce Jacobsen (Wesleyan University) and Peter Kooreman (University of Groningen and IZA) look at the impact of a change in the law that expanded shopping hours in the Netherlands. Using several Dutch time-budget surveys they show that for many people the main effect was to allow them to shop at more convenient times, with no change in total hours spent shopping. For others the previous law had been so restrictive that, in addition to changing the timing of shopping, they also increased their total hours spent in this activity. While several studies have examined how these laws might affect employment, this is the first study to examine the impact of changing shopping-hours laws on consumers.

The determination of the total hours of labor supplied to the market is probably the most well-studied issue in labor-market behavior, but nearly all research relies on individuals' recalling how much time they spent in a previous week or year. In "Estimates of a Labor Supply Function Using Alternative Measures of Hours of Work," Anders Klevmarken (Uppsala University and IZA) uses Swedish time use data to study how our inferences about such determinants of labor supply as higher wage rates are affected when we measure hours of market work based on time diaries rather than retrospective reports. The effects are substantial and indicate that much of what we have been led to believe about labor supply is questionable.

Daniel Hamermesh (University of Texas at Austin and IZA) uses Australian, German, Dutch and American data to study the determinants of temporal routine-performing the same activity at the same time on each of a number of days. He finds that routine behavior is more common among the less educated, and that, as peoples' income rises, they engage in less routine behavior. While variety is costly, in terms of the time it takes to switch activities, it is also something that people apparently find desirable.

Namkee Ahn (FEDEA Madrid) and Juan Francisco Jimeno (FEDEA Madrid and IZA) use several sets of Spanish data to examine how the unemployed spend their time in comparison to employed workers and to those who do not participate in the labor market. The main differences are that the unemployed spend more time than either of these groups enjoying passive leisure (for example, watching television) and performing household chores.

Using data from Germany, Italy and Sweden, Andrea Ichino (European University Institute and IZA) and Anna Sanz de Galdeano (Universidad Carlos III) consider the interaction between the flexibility of work hours and the amount of time mothers devote to child care. They observe that if mothers have access to part-time jobs the time that they devote to child care does not differ from that of women who do not work for pay. Where part-time jobs are scarce, however, women who work for pay cut back on the hours they devote to caring for their children.

Michael Horrigan (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) and Diane Herz (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) present a chronicle of the development of the new American Time Use Study. Until this survey the U.S. had been relatively backward in its collection of time-diary data. In January 2003, however, this on-going survey began collecting time diaries and a wealth of other information from around 1700 individuals a month, thus promising to be the largest time-budget survey in the world and the only one conducted at frequent regular intervals. The authors chronicle all the choices made in designing and fielding the survey and provide a guide for those wishing to generate such surveys elsewhere.

Patricia Apps (University of Sydney and IZA) and Ray Rees (University of Munich) integrate Australian data on time use with other Australian data on wealth and savings to examine the interaction of the two. This integration modifies our notions of how people's behavior varies over the life cycle of marriage, child-rearing, "empty-nesting" and retirement

René Fahr (IZA) uses German time use data to examine how the amount of time spent in informal education differs by the level of formal schooling. He finds that there is a positive correlation between the two, which suggests that informal activities help widen the gap in earnings, and economic status, that is created by differences in the amount of formal schooling that people acquire. Frank Stafford (University of Michigan) and Jean Yeung (New York University) study how mothers' and fathers' time spent with children differs in the United States.


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