Thursday, February 23, 2012

Economics Never Sleeps

At the NY Times' Economix blog, Catherine Rampell reports survey results showing that economists are America's fifth most sleep deprived category of workers.
Most Sleep-Deprived
6h57mHome Health Aides
7h1mPolice Officers
7h2mPhysicians, Paramedics
She seems puzzled by this:
Personally, I would love to know why economists are on this list. Economists in academia, at least,  seem to have flexible schedules that should let them get lots of sleep. Maybe a lot of them are grad students scrambling to publish, publish, publish. Or maybe there are a lot of folks like Larry Summers who prefer allocating more hours for work.
I've never met Larry Summers, but, based on what I've read, I don't think there are a lot of folks like him. 

But the "scrambling to publish, publish, publish" certainly doesn't end in grad school - indeed, that's only the beginning of it.  I really like being an academic, but its not quite so cushy as people seem to think.  However, I'm not sure why that would be worse for economists than other academics - if anything, it should be better for us because our job market is better than in most disciplines.  But it does seem to be the case that economists are disproportionately represented among the faculty I see around the building late at night or on the weekends.  Perhaps economists face a lower opportunity cost of working (i.e., we have lousy social lives).

Or maybe we just love what we do!

However, there doesn't seem to be much variance among occupations.  The least sleep-deprived group is "forest, logging workers" who get 7 hours and 20 minutes of sleep -  that's only about 3 percent more than economists.  As an economist, I wonder if that's a statistically significant difference.


esen said...

As an ex-academic, I can understand how academics (or economists) can be more sleep-deprived. I bet sleep deprivation and grading has a very strong correlation as well (positive). The best part of being outside academia is the ability to reclaim your nights and not take home any work. Between grading and preparing for the next day's classes, my experience was that I got less time to sleep in academia.

Bill C said...

Esen - you're just taunting me, aren't you :)