A study that says that young men are working less due to video games causes polemic

Photo:  Pixbay

Photo: Pixbay

A new paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research states that young men exhibit a large decline in working hours and calculates that innovation to gaming explains the increase in leisure time, but other experts say that the claims of the study are excessive.

The study “Leisure Luxuries and the Labor Supply of Young Men” —by Mark Aguiar, Mark Bils, Kerwin Kofi Charles, Erik Hurst— establishes that, since 2004, younger men shifted their leisure activities to gaming and other recreational computing activities.

“Comparing data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) for recent years (2012-2015) to eight years prior (2004-2007), we see that: (a) the drop in market hours for young men was mirrored by a roughly equivalent increase in leisure hours, and (b) increased time spent in gaming and computer leisure for younger men, 99 hours per year, comprises three quarters of that increase in leisure”.

Moreover, young men, with no college education (the group that is most likely to play) are reported to be happier than a decade ago. But the paper has been received with skepticism.

“Young non-employed men -- who could be looking for work, in school or just wasting time in their parents’ basement -- are spending more time playing video games than before. But they’re also spending less time watching TV, socializing and engaging in other leisure activities, and a lot more time studying and looking for jobs”, writes Noah Smith, from Bloomberg.

“The novelty of this research is that it identifies the marginal effect that some passionate gamers have on the US workforce. But its most important contribution is to highlight how most of the reduction in hours worked by young men has nothing to do with video games, and even the disparity between their hours and those of older workers is largely unexplained by new technology”, says Tim Fernholz in Quartz.

The data suggests that, indeed, young men are spending more time at home playing video games, but it is not clear if they are actually skipping work, or they just changed their leisure activities.