Economic possibilities for our grandchildren, video games version

Famously, John Maynard Keynes predicted in 1930 that in a few generations time people would only work 15 hours a week: productivity would have risen so much that higher living standards would be possible with less work.

He thought that people would use higher productivity (and the resultant higher pay per hour) to work much less, and consume much more leisure. But that didn't quite happen: labour hours did fall, but much much slower than he expected, despite productivity growing about as much as he thought it would. People wanted more consumer goods, as well as more services, than he thought was likely.

He (and his followers, the Skidelskys) thought it was an appreciation for the higher pleasures—like contemplation and philosophy—that would eventually take up leisure time.

But it seems that it is artificial reality, in the form of ever higher quality video games, that is the first use of leisure tempting enough to really stop men working, at least according to the work of Erik Hurst & collaborators. Here's the abstract of their new paper:

Younger men, ages 21 to 30, exhibited a larger decline in work hours over the last fifteen years than older men or women. Since 2004, time-use data show that younger men distinctly shifted their leisure to video gaming and other recreational computer activities.

We show that total leisure demand is especially sensitive to innovations in leisure luxuries, that is, activities that display a disproportionate response to changes in total leisure time. We estimate that gaming/recreational computer use is distinctly a leisure luxury for younger men.

Moreover, we calculate that innovations to gaming/recreational computing since 2004 explain on the order of half the increase in leisure for younger men, and predict a decline in market hours of 1.5 to 3.0 percent, which is 38 and 79 percent of the differential decline relative to older men.

See also two Marginal Revolution posts on the phenomenon, from Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok. I seem to remember a whole load of folks attempting to ridicule them for believing in this at the time, but the evidence does seem to be getting stronger and stronger.