Sunday, August 02, 2009

Two income families and the curious economics of unemployment

Most of us consider involuntary unemployment to be entirely a bad thing. From a macroeconomic point of view, however, things are less clear ...
METRICS - For the Unemployed, the Day Stacks Up Differently -
... If all we were doing is substituting production at home for production in the marketplace,' said Daniel S. Hamermesh, an economics professor at the University of Texas at Austin, 'then maybe unemployment wouldn't be so bad.'...
In 21st century America two income families have a very significant advantage. The risk of going entirely without health care and without income is half that of a single income family. Risk reduction isn't the same as economic value however. It might be more efficient for one family member to work for money and another to manage home and health (more sleep, more exercise -> longer life, less disability, greater lifelong income).

From the perspective of the overall economy, being unemployed is not the same as being unproductive -- and it's the productivity over time that matters for some measurements.


alanbooker said...

It is not even about the overall economy. Being unemployed in the USA has a stigma attached to it because of the strong underlying puritan attitudes that exist here in relationship to work, amongst other things.

Taking extended time off, more than a year for personal reasons, I discovered that I was often looked at askew. The most asked question upon meeting someone was, did you find work yet, not that I was looking!

Warm regards, Alan

John Gordon said...

Hi Alan!

We're very much a culture in transition. I remember writing an essay in the 70s (high school I think) where I imagined a future work/life mix that distributed work/eduction/retirement more evenly throughout life.

That vision still seems very far away.