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The Economics of Workaholism: We Should Not Have Worked on This Paper

  • Daniel S. Hamermesh
  • Joel Slemrod

A large literature examines the addictive properties of such behaviors as smoking, drinking alcohol and eating. We argue that for some people addictive behavior may apply to a much more central aspect of economic life: working. Workaholism is subject to the same concerns about the individual as other addictions, is more likely to be a problem of higher-income individuals, and can, under conditions of jointness in the workplace or the household, generate negative spillovers onto individuals around the workaholic. Using the Retirement History Survey and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we find evidence that is consistent with the idea that high-income, highly educated people suffer from workaholism with regard to retiring, in that they are more likely to postpone earlier plans for retirement. The evidence and theory suggest that the negative effects of workaholism can be addressed with a more progressive income tax system than would be appropriate in the absence of this behavior.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11566.

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Date of creation: Aug 2005
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Contributions in Economic Analysis and Policy, vol 8, no. 1, January 2008.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11566
Note: LS PE
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