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Why Do Americans and Germans Work Different Hours?

Listed author(s):
  • Linda Bell
  • Richard Freeman

This paper documents the difference between the annual hours worked by employed Americans and Germans, decomposes the difference into differences due to vacation and holiday time and to hours worked while on the job, and examines alternative explanations for the difference. Employed Americans work roughly 10-15% more hours than Germans. Since American employment-population rates exceed those of Germans, adult Americans average some 20% more work time than adult Germans. At the same time, Americans show greater preference for additional hours worked than do Germans. Both of these differences developed in the past 20 years. Two decades ago, Americans worked less than Germans, and it was the Germans who wanted to work more hours. Standard labor supply analyses do not appear able to explain this difference. We show that differences in hours worked are related to differences in earnings inequality across countries, and hypothesize that the high rewards to success in the U.S., lack of job security, and low social safety net compared to Germany or other European countries may explain the cross-country differences in an extended supply model.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4808.

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Date of creation: Jul 1994
Publication status: published as Bell, Linda and Richard B. Freeman. "The Incentive For Working Hard: Explaining Hours Worked Differences In The US And Germany," Labor Economics, 2001, v8(2,May), 181-202.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4808
Note: LS
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  1. Levy, Frank & Murnane, Richard J, 1992. "U.S. Earnings Levels and Earnings Inequality: A Review of Recent Trends and Proposed Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 1333-1381, September.
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