Thursday, September 29, 2011


My last post showed numbers indicating a large decline in the number of people who said that they enjoyed their time on the job more than time off the job.  But the two earliest surveys asked that question of everyone, while the others just asked it of employed people.  So I looked at one of the 1955 surveys to see what employed people said then.  They were more likely to say they enjoyed time off the job, but the margin was only 49%-39% (11% not sure, etc).  39% is still a lot higher than the later figures, so it looks like there was a real change.

Was that because work became less attractive to people or because leisure became more attractive?  Some of the surveys contained a question that sheds some light on that issue:  "Do you enjoy your work so much that you have a hard time putting it aside?"

                   Yes            No        DK
1955            50%          46%       4%
1955            51%          45%       4%
1988            33%          67%
2001            23%          77%

The 1955 surveys asked the question of everyone, not just employed people, but at least in the first of the two surveys, that didn't make any difference (employed people were a little more likely to say yes, but the difference wasn't statistically significant).    So Americans enjoy their work less than they used to, or at least are more likely to say they don't enjoy it.  Or if you're determined to be optimistic, like my friend and colleague Brad Wright in his new book, maybe you could say that we have a healthier attitude towards work--we still enjoy it, but are able to put it aside. 

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