A As most Americans will tell you if you can stop them long enough to ask, working people in the United States are as busy as ever. Sure, technology and competition are boosting the economy; but nearly everyone thinks they have increased the demands on people at home and in the workplace. But is the overworked American a creature of myth?
B A pair of economists have looked closely at how Americans actually spend their time. Mark Aguiar, at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and Erik Hurst, at the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business constructed four different measures of leisure. The narrowest includes only activities that nearly everyone considers relaxing or fun; the broadest counts anything that is not related to a paying job, housework or errands as "leisure". No matter how the two economists slice the data, Americans seem to have much more free time than before.
C Over the past four decades, depending on which of their measures one uses, the amount of time that working-age Americans are devoting to leisure activities has risen by 4-8 hours a week. For somebody working 40 hours a week, that is equivalent to 5-10 weeks of extra holiday a year. Nearly every category of American has more spare time: single or married, with or without children, both men and women. Americans may put in longer hours at the office than other countries, but that is because average hours in the workplace in other rich countries have dropped sharply.
D How then have Messrs Aguiar and Hurst uncovered a more relaxed America, where leisure has actually increased? It is partly to do with the definition of work, and partly to do with the data they base their research upon. Most American labour studies rely on well-known official surveys, such as those collected by the Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS) and the Census Bureau, that concentrate on paid work. These are good at gleaning trends in factories and offices, but they give only a murky impression of how Americans use the rest of their time. Messrs Aguiar and Hurst think that the hours spent at your employer's are too narrow a definition of work. Americans also spend lots of time shopping, cooking, running errands and keeping house. These chores are among the main reasons why people say they are so overstretched, especially working women with children.
E However, Messrs Aguiar and Hurst show that Americans actually spend much less time doing them than they did 40 years ago. There has been a revolution in the household economy. Appliances, home delivery, the internet, 24-hour shopping, and more varied and affordable domestic services have increased flexibility and freed up people's time.
F The data for Messrs Aguiar and Hurst's study comes from time-use diaries that American social scientists have been collecting methodically, once a decade, since 1965. These diaries ask people to give detailed information on everything they did the day before, and for how long they did it. The beauty of such surveys, which are also collected in Australia and many European countries, is that they cover the whole day, not just the time at work, and they also have a built-in accuracy check, since they must always account for every hour of the day.
G Do the numbers add up? One thing missing in Messrs Aguiar's and Hurst's work is that they have deliberately ignored the biggest leisure-gainers in the population, the growing number of retired folk. The two economists excluded anyone who has reached 65 years old, as well as anyone under that age who retired early. So America's true leisure boom is even bigger than their estimate.
H The biggest theoretical problem with time diaries is "multi-tasking". Do you measure the time you spend cleaning your house while listening to portable music as "leisure" or "work"? This problem may be exaggerated: usually people seem to combine two work activities, using a laptop computer on a plane, or two leisure ones, watching television and doing something else. The two economists counted many combinations of work and leisure, such as reading a novel while commuting or goofing off on the internet at the office, as time spent working.
I Is all this leisure a good thing? Some part-time workers might well wish they had less leisure and more income. For most Americans, however, the leisure dividend appears to be a bonus. Using average hourly wages after tax, Steven Davis, a colleague of Mr Hurst's, reckons that the national value of five extra hours of leisure per week is $570 billion, or $3,300 per worker, every year.
A. On a summer's day, apart from the intermittent drizzle and lowering sky, South Street in Romford looks as close to an Englishman's dream of a continental-style piazza as it is possible to get. Leafy trees line the extended pavements crowded with seats and tables as young families, pensioners, teenagers and businessmen tuck into a variety of faux-European dishes for lunch. Local cafes serve the full range of meaningless variations on the theme of coffee, from cappuccino through mochaccino to doppos, all at top prices. Round the corner, in the Market Place, it is French week. There are several stalls, complete with real Frenchmen, selling claret and cheeses.
B. The cafes are open during the day, and the clubs stay open until two or three in the morning most nights. In this respect, Romford is typical of contemporary Britain. In the late 1980s, the centres of many towns and cities went into decline as retailers, and particularly supermarkets, moved to new big, out-of-town shopping centres. So in the early 1990s, many local councils, in league with local businesses, re-developed their increasingly desolate town centres into "leisure zones". They looked to continental Europe for the inspiration to create modern 24-hour environments, mixing cafes, bars and clubs to keep people in the centres spending money for as long as possible.
C. By night however, South Street turns into a very different place. The street becomes a mass of 18-26-year-olds, drinking as much as they can. For anyone else, the place becomes almost a no-go area. Gillian Balfe, the council's town-centre manager and a strong supporter of the "leisuring" of South Street, concedes that the crowds become uncontrollable, and the atmosphere quickly turns "hostile and threatening". Buses are now barred from going down South Street after 9.30pm: there are too many drunken people milling about.
D. In a survey for the local council done last year, 49% of the residents of the surrounding areas of South Street confessed that they did not want to come to the city centre any more for fear of crime. The local police concede that they are virtually overwhelmed. Violence is commonplace. There has only been one consequent fatality in the area in the past couple of years, but the police say that this is mainly thanks to the merciful proximity of the local hospital. Romford's dilemma is typical of what has happened in the other "leisure zones" in towns and cities throughout the country. What were meant to be civilised places for entertainment and shopping have too often turned into alcoholic ghettos for the young.
E. For all the problems, however, Romford's local authority thinks that the idea of a 24-hour-city is already too profitable to be stopped. Local authorities think that new repressive legislation, or even a decision not to reform the licensing laws, would be unworkable. So instead of trying to pack everyone back off to bed, Romford is trying to reclaim the town centre for a broader mix of people, and so to fulfil the original ambitions of the 24-hour-city dreamers.
F. The first part of the strategy involves security. The police accept that, with their current resources, they will never be able to make South Street safe on their own. So they now work closely with the 528 "door-staff", previously known as bouncers, to target drug-dealers in the bars and clubs. In the year since that scheme came into effect, there have been more than 300 arrests for drugs. In the six months before that, there had been only one. All the premises now have a radio link to the police station for an instant response to trouble.
G. The second part of the strategy involves trying to encourage more, and different kinds of people to use the town centre at night. New attractions are opening next year to rival the pubs. On the site of the old Romford brewery there will be a 16-screen cinema and a 24-hour supermarket. A new health and leisure centre, open on some nights until 9pm, starts up soon. The hope is that these facilities will draw in a different, more sober and ethnically diverse crowd. The police have bravely encouraged one club to start a gay night on Wednesdays.
H. Together with other measures such as better street lighting, Romford hopes that it can show that the phrase "24-hour city" can be more than a euphemism for an all-night drinkathon. As the new licensing laws delegate the job of granting alcohol licences to local councils, cities across England will be trying to reclaim the night.
The birth of the cult of fine wine can be dated precisely. On April 10th 1663, Samuel Pepys, diarist and man-about-London, noted that he had enjoyed “a sort of French wine called Ho Bryan that hath a good and most particular taste that I never met with”.
The owners of Ho Bryan were the Pontacs. They were the top winemaking family of their day, and founded a fashionable restaurant, called Pontack’s Head, in London, in 1663. John Locke, the philosopher whose theory of the social contract inspired America’s revolutionaries, but who had worldlier interests too, spotted the reasons for the superiority of Ho Bryan on a visit to the vineyard in 1667. He found “a little rise of ground...white sand mixed with a little gravel; scarce fit to bear anything.” He added that “they say the wine in the next vineyard to it, tho’ seeming equal to me, is not so good.” Today that vineyard is still rated just below its neighbour.
Locke had seized on the essential concept of terroir, the combination of soil, subsoil, drainage and microclimate which provide the conditions for the production of fine wine. Another connoisseur, the 18th-century economist Adam Smith, noted that “the vine is more affected by the difference of soils than any other fruit tree. From some it derives a flavour which no culture or management can equal.”
By the early 18th century claret was getting more popular partly because it was getting better. The craft of claret-making had developed. The wine was designed to be kept for years not months, notably by being carefully stored in oak casks. Better corks allowed wine to be stored longer and more safely. Bottles were produced that could be “binned”—laid down on their sides to mature.
In the latter part of the 18th century drinking claret helped the rich to distinguish themselves from England’s port-sodden squirearchy. Port was not only the more traditional drink, but also—because it attracted much lower duties—far cheaper. John Hervey, the first Earl of Bristol, spent four times as much on claret as on port, whereas the lusty trenchermen who gathered in the Barbers Hall in the City of London spent a mere £2 on claret as against £850 on port.
When Britain made peace with France in 1713, claret became more accessible and the wine trade flourished. Claret was pricey but rich Londoners, who were also by then big spenders on theatres, spas and music produced by fashionable immigrants, such as Handel, consumed conspicuous quantities. Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first prime minister, used navy ships to smuggle his favourite wines from France. The most expensive one he bought was old burgundy, but that—as now—was available only in tiny quantities. So he relied largely on claret, buying four hogsheads of 24 dozen bottles of Margaux and one hogshead of Lafite every three months. In a single year his wine bill amounted to over £1,200 (£100,000 today). British consumers bought the best stuff and paid top prices. By the time of the French revolution, the British were paying five times as much for their claret as the wine’s other main customers, the notoriously parsimonious Dutch, who preferred the cheaper, lower-grade stuff.
By the late 19th century claret was beginning to flow down the social hierarchy. A free-trade treaty between Britain and France in 1860 drastically reduced the duty on French wines, thus encouraging the British middle classes to ape their social superiors; and in that year the chancellor of the exchequer, William Gladstone, keen to stiffen the nation’s moral spine, cut the duty on table wines to 40% of that, on more intoxicating fortified wines such as port and sherry.
The following year came the Single Bottle Act, allowing grocers to sell wine by the bottle. A much-despised, enormously popular drink called “grocers’ claret” was born, with the result that, between 1859 and 1878, sales of French wines, largely from Bordeaux, rose sixfold to 36m bottles. The Gilbey family, one of the most remarkable commercial dynasties of Victorian England, franchised 2,000 grocers licensed to sell wine, largely claret. Their business grew so fast that by 1875 they were able to buy Chateau Loudenne in the Medoc to hold their gigantic stocks of claret. As the middle classes turned to claret, so the upper classes abandoned this increasingly common tipple in favour of hock and champagne.
Then the fortunes of the claret business turned. In the late 1870s and 1880s an attack of mildew tainted the wines: the reputation of Lafite, for instance, was ruined when the 1884 vintage turned mouldy after only a couple of years in bottle. At the same time, the phylloxera bug began to devastate Bordeaux’s vineyards.
Claret came back into its own in 1960 when the splendid 1959 vintage coincided with the arrival of big American buyers. Its popularity has risen steadily since. London remains at the centre of the fine-wine business—home of organisations such as the Institute of Masters of Wine, of Decanter and World of Fine Wine magazines, and of most of the world’s biggest wine auctions. Liv-Ex, the world’s first stockmarket for fine wine, is based in London; and its figures show that nine-tenths of the wine trade is still in “classed growth” (leading) clarets. Newcomers from vineyards in a dozen countries trying to launch their finest wines on the world market come to London first for validation. Yet though London may still have much of the knowledge and the market, as consumers the British may be past their best. This year, 57% of the line wine that Sotheby’s sold globally, by value, was bought by Asians; four-fifths of those buyers were from China and Hong Kong.
Match each heading to the most suitable paragraph.
i One possible source of inaccuracies
ii Less time doing chores
iii A difference between perception and reality
iv The value of extra leisure time
v Americans are working harder
vi Significantly more free time
vii The effect of including retirees
viii The need for a wider description of work
ix An effective system for measuring time spent
x How Americans think about their time
Questions 10 -13
Choose A, B or C
In an attempt to get a wider variety of into the at night time, the local government and private organisations are going to provide different kinds of . Some examples include a and a 24-hour supermarket. They hope this will encourage people who are different , and not drunk, to use the city-centre . The local government of Romford thinks that with these in place it will be able to the city centre in the evenings.