The Economics of Workaholism: We Should Not Have Worked on This Paper
A large literature examines the addictive properties of such behaviors as smoking, drinking alcohol, gambling and eating. We argue that for some people addictive behavior may apply to a much more central aspect of economic life: working. Although workaholism raises some of the same health-related concerns as other addictions, compared to most of the more familiar addictions it is more likely to be a problem of higher-income individuals and is more likely to generate negative spillovers onto individuals around the workaholic. Using the Retirement History Survey and the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we show that high-income, highly educated people exhibit behavior that is consistent with workaholism with regard to retiring–they are more likely to postpone earlier plans for retirement. The theory and evidence suggest that the presence of workaholism calls for a more progressive income tax system than otherwise, although other more targeted policies may be part of optimal policy.
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