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Changes in Hours Worked, 1950–2000

Quarterly Review 2812 | Published July 1, 2004

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Changes in Hours Worked, 1950–2000


This article describes changes in the number of average weekly hours of market work per person in the United States since World War II. Overall, this number has been roughly constant; for various groups, however, it has shifted dramatically—from males to females, from older people to younger people, and from single- to married-person households. The article provides a detailed look at how the lifetime pattern of work hours has changed since 1950 for different demographic groups. This article also documents several factors that lead to the reallocation of hours worked across groups: increases in relative wages of females to males; technological innovations that shift female labor from the home to the market; increases in Social Security benefits to retired workers; and changes in family structure. The data presented are based on those collected by the U.S. Bureau of the Census during the 1950–2000 decennial censuses.

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