The Decline of Drudgery and the Paradox of Hard Work

Brendan Epstein Miles S. Kimball:

We develop a theory that focuses on the general equilibrium and long-run macro- economic consequences of trends in job utility. Given secular increases in job utility, work hours per capita can remain approximately constant over time even if the income e§ect of higher wages on labor supply exceeds the substitution e§ect. In addition, secular improvements in job utility can be substantial relative to welfare gains from ordinary technological progress. These two implications are connected by an equation áowing from optimal hours choices: improvements in job utility that have a significant e§ect on labor supply tend to have large welfare effects.

Keywords: Labor supply, work hours, drudgery, income e§ect, substitution e§ect, job utility.