A Note on Leisure Inequality in the US: 1965-2003
Despite the well-documented increase in the relative wages and expenditures of highly-educated individuals in the U.S. in recent decades, leisure inequality mirrors inequality of wages, i.e. we observe that highly-educated individuals have now relatively less leisure time than lower-educated individuals. What are the implications for evaluating individual welfare? This paper moves beyond the current published research, which has mostly concentrated on total time spent in leisure, and exploits the nature of diary data in the American Heritage Time Use Study (AHTUS), to provide a complementary angle to this question. We look not just at the quantity of leisure (measured as total leisure time) but also at the quality of leisure for different education groups. We provide several indicators to measure the quality of leisure, such as the number of leisure episodes, whether leisure is undertaken with the spouse and/or other adults, and whether leisure is combined with other non-leisure activities. We find that, although leisure time is greater now for less-educated individuals relative to highly-educated individuals, the quality of leisure is higher for highly-educated individuals. This finding is consistent with a model of quality-quantity of leisure, where individuals substitute quality for quantity as their income rises.
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