John Quiggin on the Incoherence of Pure Time Preference

No, the Value of Leisure Is Not High During a Downturn

Modeled Behavior sends us to Justin Lahart and Mmmeline Zhao writing two years ago about the American allocation of time during the downturn:

As Unemployment Rises, We Spend More Time Watching TV and Sleeping: The average American aged 15 or older spent three hours, 11 minutes a day working in 2009, according to the American Time Use Survey released by the Labor Department on Tuesday. That's 17 minutes less time a day engaged in work than in 2007, before the recession hit…. What did people do with that extra time? Mainly they slept and watched TV. Time spent in front of the television rose by 12 minutes, to two hours, 49 minutes a day in the two years through 2009. Sleep was the next big gainer, increasing by six minutes to eight hours, 40 minutes a day.

The data also show what Americans aren't doing with their extra time: There was virtually no change between 2007 and 2009 in the time devoted to volunteering, religious activities, exercise or education. In sum, time people might have used productively is instead being squandered, says University of Texas economist Daniel Hamermesh.

"It's not like we're using the recession to build our skills—the skills are depreciating," says Mr. Hamermesh. "It's a waste"…