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To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. – Ecclesiastes
Extending this famous verse, we can also say that there is a time for work and a time for play. There is a time for leisure.
An important distinction, however, is to be made between the precise concept of a time for leisure and the semantically different and much fuzzier notion of leisure time, our initial topic. In the course of exploring this subject, the fundamental economic forces that affect spending on all forms of entertainment will be revealed, and our understanding of what motivates expenditures for such goods and services will be enhanced. Moreover, the perspectives provided by this approach will enable us to see how entertainment is defined and how it fits into the larger economic picture.
1.1 Time concepts
Leisure and work
The classical attitude was epitomized in the work of Aristotle, for whom the term leisure implied both availability of time and absence of the necessity of being occupied (De Grazia 1962, p. 19). According to Aristotle, that very absence is what leads to a life of contemplation and true happiness – yet only for an elite few, who would not have to provide for their daily needs. Veblen (1899) similarly saw leisure as a symbol of social class. To him, however, it was associated not with a life of contemplation, but with the “idle rich,” who identified themselves through its possession and its use.
Leisure has more recently been conceptualized either as a form of activity engaged in by people in their free time or, preferably, as time free from any sense of obligation or compulsion.2 As such, the term leisure is now broadly used to characterize time not spent at work (where there is an obligation to perform). Naturally, in so defining leisure by what it is not, metaphysical issues remain largely unresolved. There is, for instance, a question of how to categorize work-related time such as that consumed in preparation for, and in transit to and from, the workplace. And sometimes the distinctions between one person’s vocation and another’s avocation are difficult to draw: People have been known to “work” pretty hard at their hobbies.
Although such problems of definition appear quite often, they fortunately do not affect analysis of the underlying concepts.
Recreation and entertainment
In stark contrast to the impressions of Aristotle or Veblen, today we rarely, if ever, think of leisure as contemplation or as something to be enjoyed only by the privileged. Instead, “free” time is used for doing things and going places, and the emphasis on activity more closely corresponds to the notion of recreation – refreshment of strength or spirit after toil – than to the views of the classicists.
The availability of time is, of course, a precondition for recreation, which can be taken literally as meaning re-creation of body and soul. But because such active re-creation can be achieved in many different ways – by playing tennis, or by going fishing, for example – it encompasses aspects of both physical and mental well-being. As such, recreation may or may not contain significant elements of amusement and diversion or occupy the attention agreeably. For instance, amateurs training to run a marathon might arguably be involved in a form of recreation. But if so, the entertainment aspect here would be rather minimal.
As noted in the preface, however, entertainment is defined as that which produces a pleasurable and satisfying experience. The concept of entertainment is thus subordinate to that of recreation: It is more specifically defined through its direct and primarily psychological and emotional effects.
Most people have some hours left over – “free time,” so to speak – after subtracting the hours and minutes needed for subsistence (mainly eating and sleeping), for work, and for related activities. But this remaining time has a cost in terms of alternative opportunities forgone.
Because time is needed to use or to consume goods and services as well as to produce them, economists have attempted to develop theories that treat it as a commodity with varying qualitative and quantitative cost features. However, as Sharp (1981) notes in his comprehensive coverage of this subject, economists have been only partially successful in this attempt:
Although time is commonly described as a scarce resource in economic literature, it is still often treated rather differently from the more familiar inputs of labor and materials and outputs of goods and services. The problems of its allocation have not yet been fully or consistently integrated into economic analysis. (p. 210)
Nevertheless, investigations into the economics of time, including those of Becker (1965) and DeSerpa (1971), have suggested that the demand for leisure is affected in a complicated way by the cost of time to both produce and consume. For instance, according to Becker (see also Ghez and Becker 1975):
The two determinants of the importance of forgone earnings are the amount of time used per dollar of goods and the cost per unit of time. Reading a book, getting a haircut, or commuting use more time per dollar of goods than eating dinner, frequenting a nightclub, or sending children to private summer camps. Other things being equal, forgone earnings would be more important for the former set of commodities than the latter.
The importance of forgone earnings would be determined solely by time intensity only if the cost of time were the same for all commodities. Presumably, however, it varies considerably among commodities and at different periods. For example, the cost of time is often less on weekends and in the evenings. (Becker 1965, p. 503)
From this it can be seen that the cost of time and the consumption-time intensity of goods and services (e.g., intensity, or commitment, is usually higher for reading a book than reading a newspaper) are significant factors when selecting from among entertainment alternatives.
Expansion of leisure time
Most of us do not normally experience sharp changes in our availability of leisure time (except on retirement or loss of job). Nevertheless, there is a fairly widespread impression that leisure time has been trending steadily higher ever since the Industrial Revolution of more than a century ago. Yet the evidence on this is mixed. Figure 1.1 shows that in the United States the largest increases in leisure time – workweek reductions – for agricultural and nonagricultural industries were achieved prior to 1940. But more recently, the lengths of average workweeks, as adjusted for increases in holidays and vacations, have scarcely changed for the manufacturing sector and have also stopped declining in the services sector (Table 1.1 and Figure 1.2). By comparison, average hours worked in other major countries, as illustrated in Figure 1.3, have declined markedly since 1970.
Table 1.1 Average weekly hours at work, 1948–2004a, and median weekly hours at work for selected yearsb
|Average hours at work||Median hours at work|
a Nonstudent men in nonagricultural industries. Source: Owen (1976, 1988).
b Source: Harris (1995), www.Harrisinteractive.com.
c Adjusted for growth in vacations and holidays.
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Figure 1.1 Estimated average weekly hours for all persons employed in agricultural and nonagricultural industries, 1850–1940 (ten-year intervals) and 1941–1956 (annual averages for all employed persons, including the self-employed and unpaid family workers). Source: Zeisel (1958).
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Figure 1.2 Average weekly hours worked by production workers in (a) manufacturing industries, 1947–2005, and (b) service industries, 1965–2005. Source: U.S.Department of Commerce.
Although this suggests that there has been little, if any, expansion of leisure time in the United States, what has apparently happened instead is that work schedules now provide greater diversity. As noted by Smith (1986), “A larger percentage of people worked under 35 hours or over 49 hours a week in 1985 than in 1973, yet the mean and median hours (38.4 and 40.4, respectively, in 1985) remained virtually unchanged.”3
If findings from public-opinion surveys of Americans and the arts are to be believed, the number of hours available for leisure may at best be holding steady.4 Schor (1991, p. 29), however, says that between 1969 and 1987, “the average employed person is now on the job an additional 163 hours, or the equivalent of an extra month a year . . . and that hours have risen across a wide spectrum of Americans and in all income categories.”5 Aguiar and Hurst (2006) argue the opposite.
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Figure 1.3 Average annual hours worked in the United States versus other countries, 1970–2005. Source: OECD Employment Outlook.
And Robinson (1989, p. 34), who has measured free time by age categories, found that “most gains in free time have occurred between 1965 and 1975 [but] since then, the amount of free time people have has remained fairly stable.” By adjusting for age categories, the case for an increase in total leisure hours available becomes much more persuasive.6 In addition, Roberts and Rupert (1995) found that total hours of annual work have not changed by much but that the composition of labor has shifted from home work to market work, with nearly all the difference attributable to changes in the total hours worked by women. A similar conclusion as to average annual hours worked was also reached by Rones, Ilg, and Gardner (1997).7Yet, as Jacobs and Gerson (1998, p. 457) note, “even though the average work week has notchanged dramatically in the U.S. over the last several decades, a growing group of Americans are clearly and strongly pressed for time.”
In all, it seems safe to say that for most middle-aged and middle-income Americans – and recently for Europeans too – leisure time is not expanding.8 However, no matter what the actual rate of expansion or contraction may be, there has been a natural evolution toward repackaging the time set aside for leisure into more long holiday weekends and extra vacation days rather than in reducing the minutes worked each and every week.9 Particularly for those in the higher-income categories – conspicuous consumers, as Veblen would say – the result is that personal-consumption expenditures (PCEs) for leisure activities are likely to be intense, frenzied, and compressed instead of evenly metered throughout the year. Moreover, with some adjustment for cultural differences, the same pattern is likely to be seen wherever large middle-class populations emerge.
Table 1.2 Time spent by adults on selected leisure activities, 1970 and 2005 estimates
|% of total time accounted|
|Hours per person per yeara||for by each activity|
|Basic cable programs||792||22.9|
|Pay cable programs||80||2.3|
|Out of home||673||19.5|
|Video games: home||99||2.9|
|Hours per adult per week||50.7||66.5|
|Hours per adult per day||7.2||9.5|
a Averaged over participants and nonparticipants.
bTotals not exact because of rounding. Also excludes 60 hours of Internet usage in 2005.
c Includes Spanish-language stations and PAX.
Sources: CBS Office of Economic Analysis and Wilkofsky Gruen Associates, Inc.
Estimated apportionment of leisure hours among various activities, and the changes in such apportionment between 1970 and 2000, are indicated in Table 1.2.10
1.2 Supply and demand factors
Ultimately, though, more leisure time availability is not a function of government decree, labor union activism, or factory-owner altruism. It is a function of the rising trend in output per person-hour – in brief, rising productivity of the economy. Quite simply, technological advances embodied in new capital equipment, in the training of a more skilled labor pool, and in the development of economies of scale allow for more goods and services to be produced in less time or by fewer workers. Thus, long-term growth in leisure-time-related industries depends on the rate of technological development throughout the economy.
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Figure 1.4 Nonfarm business productivity in the United States, 1960–2006, shown by output per hour. Index 1992 = 100. Bars indicate periods of recession. Source: U.S. Department of Labor.
Information concerning trends in productivity and other aspects of economic activity is provided by the National Income and Product Accounting (NIPA) figures of the U.S. Department of Commerce. According to those figures, overall productivity between 1973 and 1990 rose at an average annual rate of approximately 1.2% as compared with a rate averaging 2.8% between 1960 and 1973 (Figure 1.4). But productivity growth in the 1990s rebounded to an average annual rate of 2.0%, thereby implying that the potential for leisure-time expansion remained fairly steady in the last third of the twentieth century.11And after 2000, productivity has again accelerated.
Demand for leisure
All of us can choose to either fully utilize our free time for recreational purposes (defined here and in NIPA data as being inclusive of entertainment activities) or use some of this time to generate additional income. How we allocate free time between the conflicting desires for more leisure and for additional income then becomes a subject that economists investigate with standard analytical tools.12 In effect, economists can treat demand for leisure as if it were, say, demand for gold, or for wheat, or for housing. And they often estimate and depict the schedules for supply and demand with curves of the type shown in Figure 1.5. Here, in simplified form, it can be seen that, as the price of a unit rises, the supply of it will normally increase and the demand for it decrease so that, over time, price and quantity equilibrium in an openly competitive market will presumably be achieved at the intersection of the curves.13
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Figure 1.5 Supply and demand schedules.
|Ch. 1||Economic perspectives||3|
|Pt. II||Media-dependent entertainment|
|Ch. 2||Movie macroeconomics||41|
|Ch. 3||Making and marketing movies||82|
|Ch. 4||Financial accounting in movies and television||132|
|Ch. 8||The Internet||295|
|Ch. 10||Toys and games||330|
|Pt. III||Live entertainment|
|Ch. 11||Gaming and wagering||353|
|Ch. 13||Performing arts and culture||420|
|Ch. 14||Amusement/theme parks||447|
|App||Major games of chance||473|
Posted October 25, 2004
Author and entertainment industry analyst Harold L. Vogel sheds valuable light on the growing importance of fun in the American economy. His book shows surprising versatility, sometimes reading like an economics textbook, and other times providing an engaging and easily readable overview of the entertainment business. Vogel provides exhaustive sources and an authoritative perspective, linking the entertainment industry's technology-driven increase in productivity to the public's increased expenditures on music, movies, sports, games, theme parks and other forms of entertainment. The relatively modest attention he pays to the performing arts reflects their unfortunate status as a poor stepchild we find this book's breadth and depth impressive, and strongly recommends it to analysts, scholars and students who seek a clear picture of the economic role of entertainment.
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Posted October 22, 2011
I return repeatedly to the 7th edition of this book when I want to understand what makes any of the entertainment industries tick. It's a textbook, but very much accessible to the interested reader. I can't find anything else like it. I just saw a review by Martin Kretschmer at the Centre for IP Policy & Management at Bournemouth University which sums it up: "Vogel's pioneering book continues to command respect, and a prime spot in the libraries of all serious media researchers."Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 14, 2010
No text was provided for this review.