With the many innovations and inventions in the 20th century, deciding how to “play” exploded across our nation. And no matter the sport or leisure time activity chosen there was undoubtedly a song written and song about it.
You would then assume that leisure time per capita for the late 20th century and into the 21st century kept exponentially rising. From the 1930s to the 1990s, experts declare leisure did in fact substantially increase. Yet, according to a few other experts, leisure time per capita basically remains the same today as it was in 1900. It seems it all depends on how you measure “per capita.”
According to Valerie A. Ramey in her 2006 working paper, A Century Of Work And Leisure, (www.nber.org/papers/w12264) published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, what changed was how we used our time at work and school. Let’s have a look and how it all “plays” out.
Although standard measures of hours worked suggest leisure time did increase, her paper shows something a little different. In Ramey’s paper a comprehensive per capita measure of non-leisure hours was developed “. . . that includes market work, home production, commuting and schooling for the last 105 years . . . The new measures reveal a number of interesting 20th Century trends. First, 70 percent of the decline in hours worked has been offset by an increase in hours spent in school. Second, contrary to conventional wisdom, average hours spent in home production are actually slightly higher now than they were in the early part of the 20th Century."
One key reason why Ramey’s conclusion are different, and possibly more accurate, is that virtually most all other data excludes government workers, children, and adults over the age of 65 in their calculations. Ramey’s report more clearly reflect what was going on throughout the 20th century, since many children worked on farms and factories in the early part of the 20th century, as did adults age 65 and older. As the years moved on, traditional hours worked may have gone down but were replaced by more education hours and home responsibilities. In addition, there with public education and expanding public sector, the number of government employees increased considerably.
Adding all that up, gives us a clearer ratio of work to leisure that tells us that 20th century leisure time didn’t go up much at all. In addition, Ramey defines “leisure” as “. . . activities that give direct enjoyment . . .The activities with the highest enjoyment scores (sex, playing sports, etc.) are ones that one would generally classify as leisure.” While others have some classified as work (i.e. Home Production), leisure activities for Ramey include talking to, playing with, and reading to children as high enjoyment activities.
From 1900 to 1965, these enjoyable activities were not a routine part of family life. Yet as the years moved on, they became increasingly important way time was spent. Historical studies generally include in home production planning, purchasing, care of family members, general cleaning, care of the house and grounds, preparing and clearing away food, making, mending, and laundry of clothing and other household textiles. Home production as work also includes “. . . basic child care plus time spent in homework help, teaching, and meeting with teachers.” The trends later in the 20th century show “. . . average annual market hours per capita have only fallen by about 140 hours, rather than 550 hours. School hours, on the other hand, have increased by 100 hours.” Per capita home production hours are only slightly higher, 67 hours annually, than in 1900.
When it comes to leisure, Ramey includes personal care in her calculations, believing it gives “substantial enjoyment.” And while others do not include sleep time in any calculation, Ramey works from a 24 hours, 365 days per year model. While some of us may not consider these leisure time, here’s the one on the top of the list: Sex!
Guess what is next? Yep, it’s Playing Sports! Then comes Fishing, Art, Music, going to Bars/lounges, Play with kids/hug/kiss, Talk/read to Kids, Sleep, Church, Attend Movies, Pet care, Classes, Read, Walk, Work Break, Meals Out, Visit, Talk with Family, Lunch Break, Meal at Home, TV, Read Paper, Knit/Sew, Recreational Trip, Hobbies, Exercise, Meetings, Doctor, Dentist, Bathe. I can surely understand about Sex and Sports being on the top, but can you believe Doctor and Dentist is on the list (albeit the lower part of the list) of leisure activities!
So, what floats your “fun” boat? And let’s not go the “X-rated” route here, ok? How would you order Ramey’s Leisure list here? Anything you find fun that’s not on the list? For myself, I would add shopping, wouldn’t you? Or maybe not if you are of the male gender, unless it was for a new car or workshop gadget, right?
Wherever you find fun may it ward off the stress of life, bring you joy and laughter, and strengthen the love and care you have for your family. In the next article or two before November 8 elections, I just may be going a little political on you. I will strive to be polite as I move into the next month’s lifeskill, Reflections.