Regular Article

Journal of Evolutionary Economics

pp 1-17

First online:

Work and consumption in an era of unbalanced technological advance

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Abstract

Keynes’s “Grandchildren” essay famously predicted both a rapid increase in productivity and a sharp shrinkage of the workweek – to 15 h – over the century from 1930. Keynes was right (so far) about output per capita, but wrong about the workweek. The key reason is that he failed to allow for changing distribution. With widening inequality, median income (and therefore the income of most families) has risen, and is now rising, much more slowly than he anticipated. The failure of the workweek to shrink as he predicted follows. Other factors, including habit formation, socially induced consumption preferences, and network effects are part of the story too. Combining the analysis of Keynes, Meade and Galbraith suggests a way forward for economic policy under the prevailing circumstances.

Keywords

Productivity Income Consumption Leisure Technological unemployment