The Overworked American?

The article "Long Workdays Draw Backlash" (Aug. 28) adds to the myth of the "overworked American," a misleading description of work experience in America. Data from the Current Population Survey show that since 1968, the length of the average work week for full-time workers has actually fallen slightly to 43.3 hours.

What has significantly increased over the last two decades is work hours of women. The share of women working full-time, year-round rose from less than 50 percent to more than 60 percent from 1976 to 1993. As a result, average hours worked per year by prime-age women increased by 45 percent. Prime-age men experienced no change. The share of women overtime workers has also increased in recent years, from 24 percent in 1979 to 34 percent in 1997.

Feelings of "overwork" may be the result of changes in family structure. Now that 70 percent of married-couple families have two working spouses, these individuals certainly feel additional pressure to balance the demands of work and home. But there is also evidence that today's workers overstate their work hours. Time-diary estimates in which respondents record their daily activities find that by the mid-1980s Americans had about five more hours per week of leisure time than in the 1960s.

Anita Hattiangadi


Economist, Employment Policy Foundation

The popular economy

I think you missed the obvious in "Why the Political Split Between Public and Washington Elite" (Aug. 31). My daily intercourse with people supports the theory that it isn't the president they support, its the economy. Thus the question, "Do you approve of President Clinton's job performance?" is read, "Do you feel that the markets, interest rates, investment returns, etc., are acceptable?" I will [be interested to see if] his poll ratings will begin dropping like the NYSE did.

R.D. Schley

Via e-mail

Humans in the wilderness

The article "In West, Close Encounters of the Cougar Kind" (Aug. 17) aptly focused reader's attention on the increased number of cougar sightings in the West. The author's commentary brought to mind an issue too often ignored: the irresponsible behavior of many human beings in the wilderness.

The wilderness is not Disney World. Nor is it a jogger's paradise. It is replete with untamed, potentially dangerous animals. Far too many Americans blithely set off on hikes through the wilderness ignorant of the most basic knowledge critical to their well-being and survival. Somehow, we must find a way to teach those Americans who continue to treat wilderness areas as if they were Disney World theme parks how to behave responsibly and respectfully toward our wilderness animals.

Terry Jennings

New York

When the cat's away

I loved your article "Of Mice and Mice" (Aug. 31) on the inanimate, PC-version of a mouse, counterpoised against your encounter with the animate variety. It captured a newcomer's introduction to the world of "mice" so well. It made me chuckle - fixing a lethargic mouse with talcum powder, indeed.

I have been "mouse-ified" for a number of years now. Yet, I encounter problems occasionally with my mouse: not from dirt build-up, but from software incompatibility, that freezes the mouse or hides the mouse from human contact. Very frustrating at times. The article makes me look at my mouse in a new way. When I regard the mouse with a little more compassion, I may be able to move from frustration to amusement.

Dorothy Milburn-Smith

Ottawa, Ontario

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