Friday, July 7, 2017

Go play your video game

Young men are becoming less and less likely to be in the labor force or in school.  How are they spending their time, compared to comparable young men a generation ago?  Apparently no small number of them are spending their extra time playing video games.

Chicago Booth economist Eric Hurst has just released his study of time allocation of jobless young men.  Men aged 21 to 30 are working 203 fewer hours than 15 years ago; men aged 31 to 55 are working 163 fewer hours.  Older men used their extra free time on TV, sleeping, eating and personal care; younger men used theirs on recreational computer time, mainly video games.  On average young men game 3.4 hours weekly.  Hidden underneath that average is a wide dispersion, with many clocking zero hours but some spending 20 or more.

There is a bit of a chicken-egg problem in interpreting the results.  One possibility is that the games are so enthralling that they become an alternative world with amenities superior to everyday existence.  In this case a job may never be seen as an attractive option.  Alternatively joblessness leads to free time and in today's age video games have transplanted other forms of idleness such as watching television or hanging out at the mall.  Perhaps it is no coincidence that some companies are using video games as part of their hiring process?

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