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The average job is less painful and less tiring than it was in 1950

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Hedgefundguy

Tell us something new.
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All one has to do is watch an episode of "Route 66" to see Tod and Buzz - or Tod and Linc finding work in various cities in the early 60's.
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Sometimes "Naked City" also takes us into workplaces of the late 50's and early 60's.
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Today's low paid physical jobs are usually done by migrants or illegals - something that researchers won't mention.
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NSFTL
Regards

Forlana

The paper is an elegant follow-up of the large and fundamental metanalyses/reviews in the field (eg. directly mentioned by the authors, the fundamental Handbook of Economic Growth, ed. P. Aghion and S.Durlauf). The aim of the study is extremely brave, since it to tries to combine the data obtainable and non-obtainable by introspection. That, in the already imponderable field of the non-pecuniary costs and benefits of work. The more so - congrats to original paper authors and to The Economist for reporting it. The non-pecuniary dimensions are too often overlooked by the economists.

Some implications of changes in the structure of occupation TE deals with/reports, especially the improvements for women and the reduction for men are however found exclusively at the lower educational level , a phenomenon which was reproted by Graphic Detail indirectly only. It is important, since with this limitation the present results may be better fitted into the general trend of an on-going polarization in occupational structure found in other research. Which is growth of both the high-wage- high-skill jobs and low-wage-low-skill ones, and shrinking of employment in the middle level.
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Great work and another small step on the path to fully understand the civilizational impact of two phenomena, and to thus draw pragmatic conclusions.

1. The rise in women’s participation noted in the Western Civilization since WW2.
2. The attititude to raising incomes - do/will people spend fewer hours working with rising incomes, as Keynes proposed (or just first asked) - or not at all.

ashbird

Can't believe all the myriad random variables un-named, un-identified, let alone controlled, their nonexistence 100% assumed, and the author being utterly unaware of this . The conclusions drawn are as stupid as stupid gets. Is TE proud of this kind of work?

Michael Dunne in reply to ashbird

This looks like a much lighter, much more high level take on more comprehensive studies/works on how work is generally less physically demanding. So there is the study used as the basis for the charts there (not sure why they don't like to the studies, or the abstracts at least), but also recent books - like "The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War" - which go into this subject in some detail.
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Kind of stating the obvious of an overarching trend that unfolded since 1900: Work got less physical, less painful, physically, and less dangerous. Actually, the getting less physical bit may have helped facilitate the waist widening of the American workforce since 1969 or so.
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Otherwise, this piece does seem to have been pulled together a little haphazardly, with the structure a little odd, and the exposition a little too brief.

ashbird in reply to Michael Dunne

Long time no read, Michael. Thanks for thoughtful reply.
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Sure. No problem, if all the words and charts and graphs stand for a meta-analysis of the effect of how humans no longer have to built pyramids one stone at a time or dig a Suez Canal one shovel at a time, fine. No problem at all.
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We know a lot of labor, in particular hard labor, has been automated in the last half century. A moron knows that. However, extant are also significant exceptions. Examples: coal miners still go down the chute - that’s what they do when they go to work; when there is an accident, physical injuries result and death happens. Ask those guys if they feel stressed or “tired” after a day’s work (“tired” is a word used in the title of the article). And chimney-sweeps still crawl in chimneys to sweep chimneys, just like in Dicken’s time (ask them too if they feel stressed and “tired” after sweeping a few).

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I think, as you wrote, the piece, apart from “stating the obvious” and “seem to have been pulled together a little haphazardly”, with “structure a little odd”, and the “exposition a little too brief”, it is also not clear what the author is trying to say in the bit on "sexism". Do you get what the “worrying stuff” is?
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Finally, the author never defines what “pain” refers to in arriving at his/her meta-analysis.
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What "pain" is he/she talking about?? There are many kinds of “pain”, all potentially lethal - pain arising from physical trauma that kills instantly or quickly, pain arising from psychological stress that kills cumulatively or slowly (aka suicide and/homicide - a dated nomenclature was “go postal”) and pain arising from emotional stress that drives many people to the luny bin or became so maladjusted in a complicated society they vote strange people into political office.
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For all the above reasons, I maintain the piece is silly. But now I am forced to use the word “asinine”.
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Note also the points each of the two commenters below observed. IMHO, both points are meritorious.

Houshu

The silliness in these kinds of 'study' to try to be 'quantitative' is deplorable. What does it mean for a 'happiness index' at 4.0 and a 'sadness index' at 0.7? AND at the exactly same time?

B. Hotchkiss in reply to Houshu

You are absolutely right. How can anybody compare answers on a survey, taken in 1950 from people mostly now dead, who were living in the world as it then existed, with the same questions answered by different people in the very different world of today.
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In addition, as with almost every graph published in the press today, the use of a non-zero x-axis exaggerates differences that would look far less important if the plot started at zero like the data actually does.

Houshu in reply to B. Hotchkiss

Yes, their x-axis is misleading, but their y-axis is atrocious.
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One basic flaw of these social studies is that they can not comprehend negative numbers. For the current question of happiness vs. sadness, they simply don't understand that a scale where happy= 1, neither happy nor sad= 0, sad= -1 (or add 'somewhat happy' and 'somewhat sad' to the choice) is the maximum amount of information one can wring out from a stupid survey (or survey of the stupid).