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May 2007, Vol. 130, No. 5
How do older Americans spend their time?
Rachel Krantz-Kent and Jay Stewart
Understanding how older Americans spend their time and how their time use changes at key life events, such as retirement, is important because it affects their well-being. Other aspects of aging, such as the determinants of labor supply and retirement age, the adequacy of retirement savings, and the importance of housing wealth, have been researched extensively. But little attention has been devoted to how older Americans spend their time.
At retirement, the opportunity cost of spending time in leisure and household production activities declines, because individuals no longer forgo wages to engage in these activities. Economic theory predicts that, because of their lower income and lower opportunity cost of time, retirees will spend more time doing household production activities—such as cooking, cleaning, and performing household maintenance—than they did while they were employed.1 The predicted effect of retirement on time spent in leisure activities is ambiguous, because the effects of a lower opportunity cost of time and lower income work in opposite directions: the lower opportunity cost of time in retirement tends to increase time spent in leisure activities, while the decline in income tends to decrease time spent in leisure activities.2 Thus, when comparing the time use of older Americans who are employed with those who are not employed, one expects to find that the nonemployed spend more time in household production activities and either more or less time in leisure activities than those who are employed. Along the same lines, one would expect part-time workers to be in some sense "between" full-time workers and nonworkers in how they use their time—especially if people work part time to ease the transition from full-time work to retirement.
This excerpt is from an article published in the May 2007 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 An employed individual, who has a higher income and opportunity cost of time, is more likely to hire others to prepare meals, clean house, and do other household chores. Thus, one would expect employed individuals to spend less time engaged in household production activities than retired individuals spend.
2 Leisure activities are considered to be a "normal" good, meaning that the consumption of leisure increases as income increases.
Related BLS programs
American Time Use Survey (ATUS)
in time use at stages of the life cycle.—Sept.
Trends in job demands among older workers, 1992–2002.—Jul. 2004.
Labor force participation of older women: retired? working? both?—Sept 2002
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