The distinction between work and leisure is just a model. And it’s breaking down

Economists like to divide up our lives into work and leisure. Like a lot of economics thinking, this is just a model. It compresses some details to make issues tractable. Which is normally fine.

But this model is very powerful – it is very widely accepted, and used outside the profession. The average punter is able to say, well, the cost of pizza delivery is $4, and it would take me 15 minutes to go to the shop and back, so I should get the delivery if I value my time over $16/hour. Since I make $20 an hour, I’ll get the delivery.

If this labour/leisure model fails, a lot of our thinking about the labour market needs a re-think. And this model fails in many ways.

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