The myth that Americans are busier than ever

Even in America, which looks like an industrious outlier compared to Europe, we work less, both at the office and at home. Between 1965 and 2011, time spent on housework and childcare for women declined by 35 percent (or 15 hours each week), thanks to dishwashers, TVs, and other appliances that assist the work of stay-at-home parents.

The trouble with the graph above, however, is that it displays America as a monolith, when the experience of individual Americans is anything but. For many Americans, particularly less-educated men and women, Keynes’ crystal ball has correctly foretold a future of historically high leisure time. But single parents in the U.S. report the most hours worked and severe time shortage in the developed world, and higher-educated men and women are actually working more than they were 50 years, bucking the global trend. Economists call this the “leisure gap,” and it’s a mirror reflection of the income gap. When it comes to leisure, the rich have less, and the poor have more.

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