Summary of The Decline of Drudgery and the Paradox of Hard Work

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The Decline of Drudgery and the Paradox of Hard Work summary

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Some people love their jobs, but most can’t wait for the weekend, for a holiday or for retirement. It might seem strange that, given the chance to work less, individuals would opt to work just as much. Citizens of OECD countries have worked roughly the same amount of hours since the mid-1950s, despite rising wages and consumption. If they can live as well on less time at work, why don’t they? The answers are complex – and the theory and mathematics rather dense – in this report from economists Brendan Epstein and Miles S. Kimball. getAbstract suggests their erudite investigation into why people toil to working men and women everywhere.

About the Authors

Brendan Epstein is an economist with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Miles S. Kimball is a professor of economics at the University of Michigan.


In 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes forecast that, in the course of the 20th century, people would spend more time at leisure, because rising productivity would allow them to meet their financial needs with progressively fewer hours of work. Yet since the mid-1950s, the number of working hours has remained stable, according to data on OECD nations, despite a doubling of consumption. Why don’t workers trade work time for leisure time? A theory gauging the relative appeal of work and leisure finds that jobs are “getting nicer.”

In principle, individuals...

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