Video Games May Have a Profound Effect on the Labor Market
Prime working-age men are eschewing jobs and opting to play video games instead in larger numbers, a new study reveals.
The study was undertaken by university economists Mark Aguiar, Mark Bils, Kerwin Kofi Charles and Erik Hurst, and was reported by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Charles and Hurst are with the University of Chicago, Bils with the University of Rochester, and Aguiar is with Princeton University.
“Our estimates suggest that technology growth for computer and gaming leisure can explain as much as three-quarters of that 4 percent greater decline (in work hours) for younger men. We estimate that improved computer and gaming technology also explains a small decline in market work for younger women, but had no impact for older men and women,” they wrote.
The report showed that between 2000 and 2015, the number of hours worked by men aged 20 to 30 years old fell by 203 hours per year compared to just 163 hours for men aged 31 to 55 over the same time. The older group also showed a higher employment rate improvement following the 2008 recession.
While one explanation is that older workers have more experience and are therefore more in demand on the labor market, the report notes that wages earned by men in their twenties rose alongside wages for older men, suggesting that the lack of demand for labor isn’t necessarily a factor, or at least, doesn’t tell the whole story.
The report also showed that younger men are less likely to have kids and be married, as is to be expected, and therefore have less pressure to return to the labor force.
The projections of just how much of an impact gaming can have on young men, however, could herald a paradigm shift in the labor market. The report showed that younger workers viewed playing games as an important personal activity, and are unlikely to give this time up without resistance.
“Innovations to computer and gaming leisure may have dynamic effects on labor supply. It is possible that individuals develop a habit (or addiction) for such activities. Certainly, individuals build ‘leisure capital’ in the form of physical equipment, but especially human skills, that enhances enjoyment from gaming,” the report found.
The rewards of gaming and the sometimes-punishing work market can then reinforce a system where younger workers are encouraged to stay out of the labor market in favor of video games, which could lead to a damaged economy overall in the near future.
“Leisure Luxuries and the Labor Supply of Young Men,” National Bureau of Economic Research, June 2017.