Racial Differences in Time at Work Not Working

hands and forearms with a watch on one wrist and the other hand holding the watch

One explanation offered for the racial wage gap in the labor market stems from on-job behaviors: That is, racial differences in effort and productivity at work could explain why certain racial groups receive more or less in wages.

Using data from the American Time Use Survey, this paper, published in the December 2021 issue of the Industrial and Labor Relations Review, aims to estimate racial differences in effort and productivity while working.

Key Findings

  • The authors find small, statistically significant differences between unadjusted measures of time spent not working among non-Hispanic Black and non-Hispanic White males.
  • However, these differences disappear entirely when accounting for false and/or erroneous reporting when respondents claim they spent zero time at work not working.
  • As such, any differences in time spent not working (during the workday) are too small to partially explain the racial wealth gap — or, conversely, these differences do not exist at all.
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