During a recession, how do people spend all the extra time they would have been working?
Half of it goes to sleep, TV and leisure:
We use data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), covering both the recent recession and the pre-recessionary period, to explore how foregone market work hours are allocated to other activities over the business cycle. Given the short time series, it is hard to distinguish business cycle effects from low frequency trends by simply comparing time spent on a given category prior to the recession with time spent on that category during the recession. Instead, we identify the business cycle effects on time use using cross state variation with respect to the severity of the recessions. We find that roughly 30% to 40% of the foregone market work hours are allocated to increased home production. Additionally, 30% of the foregone hours are allocated to increased sleep time and increased television watching. Other leisure activities absorb 20% of the foregone market work hours. We use our evidence from the ATUS to calibrate and test the predictions of workhorse macroeconomic models with home production. We show that the quantitative implications of these models regarding the allocation of time over the business cycle matches reasonably well the actual behavior of households.
Source: “Time Use During Recessions” from NBER Working Paper No. 17259
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