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Johannes Buhl

Rebound Effects in Times of Social Acceleration


Time Use, Expenditures and Resource Use
Background & Research Question
Rebound effects as transformational effects (Greening et al. 2000), which respond to changes in consumer preferences and social institutions in production
like the organization of labor - here, a reduction of working time:
The Triple Dividend (Schor 2013) suggests: A reduction of working time tackles
issues that come with ecological sustainability, social justice and individual quality
of life.

But Linders Axiom states that disposable time decreases and lifestyles
accelerate as productivity and wealth increases.
And Parkinsons law says that the work expands to fill the time available for it.

So, if people save time (due to worktime reduction), does it hold true that time
intensive activities substitute resource intensive consumption in the light of social
accleleration (Rosa 2003) and a logic of increase (Schulze 2010)?

Methodology
1) Semi-standardised interviews reveal changes in time use after working time reductions as well as a comprehensive understanding of activities as dynamic social
practices. A structural and evaluative content analysis of 23 interviews refers to changes in time use in leisure, mobility, housing, social and family life. Changes
are reflected considering time use preferences, institutional drivers and barriers, life satisfaction and ecological sustainability.
2) A quantitative analysis reveals time as well as income effects of time savings. The database consists of National Surveys on Income and Expenditures as well
as Time Use (EVS, ZBE, SOEP). Econometric estimations of marginal propensities to consume and to time (elasticities) reveal net rebound effects for Germany
taking social heterogeneity into account.

Results
1)
- In principle, the magnitude of time rebound effects depends on time
use propensities, but foremost on resource intensities of activities.
- An application of Jalas (2006) rebound model reveals (ecologically)
ambiguous effects. For instance, people spend more time resting or
for hobbies instead of watching TV.

2a)
- A reduction of working time comes with disposable time, but also with a loss of income.
- Then, a marginal reduction of income reduces expenditures (for mobility, housing, leisure).

4000
Repairs,
Renovations

Resource use per cap and year (in kg)

3500
3000
2500

Hobby

2000

TV, Radio,
Computer

Going out and Trips

1500
1000

Hobbies
Sports (outdoors)

500

Childcare

Education

Sleep and Rest

- And a drop in working hours raises time use (for hobbies, child care and education).
- Eventually, the net effect of time savings and income loss constitutes the overall rebound.

Socialising

0
0

200

400
600
800
Time Use per cap and year (in h)

1000

1200

2b)
- Apart ecological effects, what about individual well-being?
- Working less does not come with higher life satisfaction per se.

Conclusions
1) Gains in free time come with resource light as well as resource intensive
activities. Time use rebound effects may compensate income effects.
2a) A comprehensive assessment of resource conservation needs to take income as
well as time effects into account (the net effect).
2b) Besides, shorter work hours come with increased life satisfaction as long as for loss
in income (and in occupational status) is taken care of.

- Only when controlling for income loss in a multivariate analysis,


working less correlates with higher life satisfaction.

ISOE 2014

An analysis of rebound effects in terms of expenditures is insufficient. People


substitute activities after time savings as well, engage in voluntary work and caring.
Sucht that an ecological assessment of rebound effects needs to be complemented
by an evaluation of social and individual sustainability.

johannes.buhl@wupperinst.org