This thesis presents findings from two interrelated studies inspired by the work-time reduction movement and its goals to reduce household consumption and improve work-life balance. The first study examines change in household food consumption and travel behavior as a result of regularly scheduled unpaid days-off from work. The second examines how appreciation for the value of time as a driver of change in household consumption, relative to income, moderates life satisfaction during a period of reduced working hours.
A survey of 1,452 furloughed state government employees provided empirical data. A moderate percentage of employees (46%) increased their consumption of meals cooked from scratch, while 57% decreased consumption of meals at restaurants/sit-down cafes, 37% decreased consumption of convenience food meals and 21% ate fewer delivered meals. Multiple regression models predicted change in meal type frequency after controlling for demographic characteristics and furlough length. Furlough length had a smaller effect on change in convenience food consumption than it did for other meal types. Future research could account for personal preferences or measure pre-furlough meal frequency to investigate the effect of habit on changing food consumption patterns.
Nineteen percent and 29% of employees reported an impact to commute or household travel mode, respectively. Fifty-eight percent of employees reported an impact to the number of household trips they made; three quarters of whom made fewer trips. Individuals with longer furloughs used a personal automobile less frequently for commute and household travel and took public transportation or walked more frequently. Furlough length increased the odds of an impact to commute mode and number of household trips. Commute mode and household trip frequency may be consumption activities that require deeper income cuts or more time in order to develop new habits. Future research should control for access to alternative transportation modes and nonwork activity destinations. Work hours, where significant, generally had larger effects on predicting impact to household travel mode or number of trips than did income. Household travel mode may be a consumption area where individuals are more amenable to using their discretionary time to use slower, or more planned, transportation modes.
I expected that individuals who appreciate their time-availability as a means to produce time-intensive household goods and services would be the most likely to adapt positively to a work-time reduction scenario. Participants rated the importance of time and income to change in consumption of home-produced meals and outsourced meals and to change in commute and household travel mode and household trip frequency. Time was rarely valued as more important than income to change in consumption. Using binary logistic regression models that controlled for demographic characteristics and furlough length, I found that individuals who rated time as more important than income to change in consumption behavior were significantly more likely to report that they had maintained or increased their life satisfaction during furlough time. The effect of the time/income valuation difference was much larger than those of household income and weekly work hours and suggests that feelings of self-sufficiency are essential to a successful shift to reduced hours.
University of Minnesota M.S. thesis. July 2013. Major: Natural Resources Science and Management. Advisor: Timothy Smith. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 151 pages, appendices p. 114-151.
Adjusting to work time and income reduction: change in household consumption behavior and life satisfaction.
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