July 29, 2017

Young men spending several hours weekly on video games

Slate - In the wake of the Great Recession, young men have become something of a conundrum for economists. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics say that men between the ages of 21 and 30 show reduced labor force participation compared with older men and women of all ages. For example, the market hours young men worked fell by 12 percent between 2000 and 2015, compared with a drop of only 8 percent for older men. Yet, according to the General Social Survey, young men reported increased happiness during this same period of time.

Research published recently by the National Bureau of Economic Research links at least part of this difference to video games: Statistical modeling by the authors suggests that young men are working an average of four fewer hours per week than they once did and spending three of those four hours playing video games. The gaming doesn’t account for the full difference in workforce participation between younger and older men, but they estimate that it accounts for between 38 and 79 percent of that variance. We still need further research to support this finding, but if it is true, then video games could be a significant factor in why young men are struggling in the workforce.

The authors’ model shows that gamers value time spent on video games far more highly than television, which itself ranks well above other forms of leisure. But they don’t attempt to answer what it is about video games that makes them so compelling. One possible explanation is that games, unlike other forms of entertainment, effectively simulate the most positive (and only the most positive) aspects of work itself.

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