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National Time Accounting: The Currency of Life

In: Measuring the Subjective Well-Being of Nations: National Accounts of Time Use and Well-Being

  • Alan B. Krueger
  • Daniel Kahneman
  • David Schkade
  • Norbert Schwarz
  • Arthur A. Stone

This monograph proposes a new approach for measuring features of society’s subjective well-being, based on time allocation and affective experience. We call this approach National Time Accounting (NTA). National Time Accounting is a set of methods for measuring, comparing and analyzing how people spend and experience their time -- across countries, over historical time, or between groups of people within a country at a given time. The approach is based on evaluated time use, or the flow of emotional experience during daily activities. After reviewing evidence on the validity of subjective well-being measures, we present and evaluate diary-based survey techniques designed to measure individuals’ emotional experiences and time use. We illustrate NTA with: (1) a new cross-sectional survey on time use and emotional experience for a representative sample of 4,000 Americans; (2) historical data on the amount of time devoted to various activities in the United States since 1965; and (3) a comparison of time use and wellbeing in the United States and France. In our applications, we focus mainly on the Uindex, a measure of the percentage of time that people spend in an unpleasant state, defined as an instance in which the most intense emotion is a negative one. The U-index helps to overcome some of the limitations of interpersonal comparisons of subjective well-being. National Time Accounting strikes us as a fertile area for future research because of advances in subjective measurement and because time use data are now regularly collected in many countries.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Alan B. Krueger, 2009. "Measuring the Subjective Well-Being of Nations: National Accounts of Time Use and Well-Being," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number krue08-1, July.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 5053.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:5053
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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