Monday, November 24, 2008

Early to Bed, Early to Rise... Depends on the TV Schedule in Your Time Zone

The Chicago Journals website provides a useful summary (here) of a recent paper in the Journal of Labour Economics: Hamermesh, Daniel S., Caitlin Knowles Myers, and Mark L. Pocock (2008): “Cues for Timing and Coordination: Latitude, Letterman, and Longitude.”

...Daylight Saving Time has its roots in the Standard Time Act of 1918... Last year, Daylight Saving was extended by four weeks. Although the prime-time television schedule is a “relic of the technology of radio transmission” — it was created when signals could not be broadcast across the country — it remains a powerful cue. Reflecting on his own weekday television watching schedule, Hamermesh recalled, “I lived twenty years in the Eastern Time Zone, I used to stay up until 11:45 p.m. to watch the monologue on the Tonight Show. Living in Texas, I typically turn out the lights at 10:45 p.m., when the monologue is done."

...The authors... use...the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), which enabled them to observe how Americans split their time between their three most time-consuming activities: work, sleep, and television watching. After merging ATUS with sunrise and sunset data, the authors found that while natural daylight patterns have some effect on people’s life patterns, the demands of global business—market openings, etc. — and regular television schedules, demarcate the boundaries of most Americans’ lives.


Kevin Denny said...

I wonder about these papers on time use.The overwhelming question is "So what?" :they never seem to say anything very interesting except as a curiousum.

Martin Ryan said...

Well, the natural response would be to say that the fundamental scarce resource in the economy is the availability of human time, and that the allocation of time to various activities will ultimately determine the relative prices of goods and services, the growth path of real output, and the distribution of income (Juster and Stafford, JEL, 1991).

An example of an interesting application (in my opinion) is Stinebrickner and Stinebrickner (JoE, 2004) who look at time use and college outcomes.

There are other interesting things that we have learned about time use in other domains. Aguiar and Hurst (QJE, 2007) "document
a growing inequality in leisure that is the mirror image of the growing
inequality of wages and expenditures, making welfare calculation based solely on
the latter series incomplete."

Hamermesh (EER, 2005) shows that more educated people engage in less routine behavior; higher household incomes enable people to purchase more temporal variety. "The positive income effects and impacts of schooling indicate yet another avenue by which standard measures of inequality understate total economic inequality."