Younger Men Working Less and Are Much Happier About It

There is a changing shift in the amount of free time among men in America, according to new studies. Younger men have more free time than ever before, and elite men — the ones who are thought to be on their yachts relaxing — are the workaholics.

Nearly 25% of men without a college degree between the ages of 21 and 30 are out of work and had not looked for work in the past 12 months. How are they spending their free time? Video games, mostly. But men in that age group are reporting higher rates of happiness than they did a decade ago. Young men are poor, unemployed, and happy all at the same time.

Elite men in the U.S. are the world’s chief workaholics. They work longer hours than poorer men in the U.S. and rich men in other advanced countries. In the last generation, they have reduced their leisure time by more than any other demographic. As the economist Robert Frank wrote, “building wealth to them is a creative process, and the closest thing they have to fun.”

According to an essay published in the Wall Street Journal last week, 4 a.m. has become the “most productive hour.”

One explanation for the increase in more happiness and less work is the explosion of smartphones and computers, where fun can be had anytime, anywhere.

Now somebody can listen to music, watch video, and read—while checking on social media feeds that can act as the cumulative equivalent of newspapers, magazines, and phone calls with friends—on their phone, while at work. Meanwhile, these same mobile instruments of leisure are also instruments of professional connectivity: When a boss knows that each of her workers have smartphones, she knows that they can all read her email on a Saturday morning (sent, naturally, at 4:01 a.m.).

It will be interesting to see how this plays out as those happy, unemployed 20-somethings grow up and are replaced with the next generation, where they got smartphones at 10 and 11 years old.


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