For workers for whom I have only a yearly wage, I estimated the length of the work year assuming a work year of 307 days (6 holidays and Sundays off) minus the number of days lost due to ill health, unemployment, or other factors. The last two imputation procedures introduce systematic bias, but, by examining workers paid by the hour, I am able to assess the likely effect of this bias on estimates of the wage elasticity of daily hours worked. Workers for whom the only wage information is the amount paid by the ton, mile, or piece were deleted from the sample. All wages were adjusted to be in real 1895 dollars. Using my second wage variable the mean wage in the sample was 19 cents per hour and for workers paid by the hour it was 23 cents per hour. The sample mean is therefore close to the national mean hourly wage for manufacturing workers of 20 cents per hour in 1895 (Series D 765-778 in U.S. Bureau of the Census 1975: 168).
For the 1973 and 1991 data I also construct two wage variables. One is the hourly wage for workers paid by the hour. For workers who were not paid by the hour, the hourly wage is estimated from information on weekly earnings. None of the sample was topcoded in 1973 and in 1991 only 0.03 percent of workers paid by the hour were topcoded and only 0.29 percent of workers stating their weekly earnings. The top-coded value was therefore used in estimating the hourly wage. The 1890s, 1973, and 1991 data are restricted to non-farm, single job holder wage and salary workers.
Who Worked the Longest Day?
Table 2 gives average hours worked per day by deciles of the average hourly wage both for men paid by the hour and for all men aged 25 to 64 in the 1890s, 1973, and 1991. In the 1890s hours worked were 11 for men in the bottom decile but decreased sharply to 9 for men in the top decile. The California sample shows that men in the top decile began work an hour later than men in the bottom decile (8:00 rather than 7:00 am) and took an hour for lunch rather than a half hour. By 1973 the decrease in daily hours with the wage was no longer as pronounced. Men in the bottom decile worked close to 9 hours and those in the top 8 hours. By 1991 daily hours worked increase with the wage decile, from 8 for those in the bottom to almost 9 for those in the top. Although working 8 am to 5 pm was the most common pattern for both low and high wage decile workers, three times as many top wage decile workers as low wage decile workers were working from 8 am to 6 pm.10 The same trend towards longer hours for top wage decile workers and shorter hours for low decile workers is observed for women as well (Table 3).