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Time Allocation, Consumption, and Consumer Policy

  • Economics
  • Psychology


EDITORIAL NOTE Time Allocation, Consumption, and Consumer Policy Wencke Gwozdz & Lucia A. Reisch & Alfonso Sousa-Poza Published online: 23 March 2010 # Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2010 It can be argued that the fundamental scarce resource in the economy is the availability of human time. (Juster and Stafford 1991, p. 471). Although time may indeed be the most important of economic resources, it was not until Gary Becker's (1964) seminal paper that a serious attempt was made to develop a theoretical framework that could analyse the way in which individuals allocate their time between various activities. This is not to say that traditional economic theory totally ignored this topic; rather, time took on a very secondary role. In subsequent decades, however, economic, psychological and sociological investigators have all devoted considerable energy to developing models and collecting data on time use. Nevertheless, despite the large body of time-use literature that has evolved over the past decades, one aspect has still received relatively little attention: the effect of changes in time-use behaviour in general and increased time pressure in particular (see, e.g., Linder 1970; Roxburgh 2002) has had on consumers and how consumer policy has reacted to these developments. Individual consumption and time use can be viewed from several perspectives: as the process of using—or enjoying or even dissipating—personal goods and services; as the effort to acquire personal wealth, which usually means engaging in paid work and balancing it with the needs of (unpaid) work in the informal sector (e.g., care giving, household work); and/or as the handling, disposing, and managing of the accumulated “stuff of life.” From all perspectives, consumption is deeply embedded in the context of social “time scapes” (Adam 1998) that, by defining its hours, rhythms, and temporalities, shape and restrict consumer decisions in myriad ways. Hence, recognition of the growing J Consum Policy (2010) 33

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