Young Men Not Working Because of Video Games?

On the face of it, it sounds ridiculous: Of all the reasons young men may face challenges in today’s economy, the allure of playing video games is one of them.

However, the Washington Post reports: “Why amazing video games could be causing a big problem for America.”

The piece reports on new research that “may help explain one of the most alarming aspects of the nation’s economic recovery: Even as the unemployment rate has fallen to low levels, an unusually large percentage of able-bodied men, particularly the young and less-educated, are either not working or not working full-time.”

The Post writes: “The researchers are not merely saying that young men, out of work, are turning to video games. They’re saying that increasingly sophisticated video games are luring young men away from the workforce. To determine this, the researchers analyzed changes in how people were allocating their time to leisure, and ran statistical tests that they say show that technological improvements are pushing people to spend much more time playing video games. That, in turn, is changing people’s trade-offs about when to work and when to play.”

The research is titled “Leisure Luxuries and the Labor Supply of Young Men,” and is authored by economists from Princeton, the University of Rochester and the University of Chicago.

The abstract states: “We explore the declining market hours of men in the last fifteen years, with a particular focus on less-educated young men (LEYM), who experienced a relatively large decline in work hours. The paper documents the decline in hours worked as well as corresponding trends in real wages and consumption, and shows that the large decline in hours is inconsistent with a stable labor supply curve with standard elasticities. We propose a new methodology that exploits detailed micro data on how individuals allocate their time away from work to infer how changes in leisure technology have altered labor supply. In particular, we use estimated “Leisure Engel Curves” to calculate that changes in leisure technology for computer goods broadly, and video games in particular, shift the labor supply curve by an amount between 10 and 25 percent of the observed decline in market work hours for prime age men and between 20 and 45 percent of the decline in market work hours for LEYM.”

The conclusion: “Our calculations suggest that innovations in gaming and computer leisure had a substantial impact on LEYM’s labor supply, explaining perhaps as much as two thirds of their increase in leisure time and 45 percent of their decline in market hours.”

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