THE LENGTH OF THE WORK DAY: Data

The final dataset contains over 11,000 men aged 25 to 64 and over 1,100 women aged 18 to 64. Although the men in the survey are predominately upper working class non-farm wage earners and the women manufacturing operatives, there is enough variation in the data to reweight by broad occupation or industry category. As expected, less than 10 percent of women were married. Although unionized workers are oversampled, unionization lowered hours of work by only 2 percent, suggesting that this will not bias my results.
The questions that were asked about hours of work varied slightly by state, but all referred to usual hours of work per day. I assume throughout that the usual work day excludes lunch time, breaks, and overtime, but includes time spent on the job not working. None of the states had hours legislation at the dates of the surveys.


The mean length of the work day in the pooled dataset was 10.2 hours for men and 9.5 for women, estimates similar to those obtained from other sources (see Table 13 in the Appendix). Mean hours of work remain virtually unchanged when the pooled dataset is reweighted to be representative of the 1900 occupational distribution and the 1910 industrial distribution. Forty-seven percent of the men in the sample stated that they worked ten hours a day (see Figure 1). The California data indicate that the most common pattern was for work to begin at 7:00 am and end at 5:30 pm with a 30 minute break for lunch.
The men and women in the pooled dataset, like most workers at the end of the nineteenth century, probably labored six days a week. Although information on days worked per week is unavailable, women in the Indianapolis survey reported hours worked on Saturday and the 1897 Kansas survey included a question on whether hours of work were reduced or increased on Saturday. Only 9 percent of workers reported that hours of work were reduced. Fourteen percent reported that hours of work were increased and 76 percent that they remained the same. In the same survey almost 40 percent of the men, generally railroad workers, reported that some Sunday work was required. None of the women in the Indianapolis survey reported that they did not work on Saturday. Mean hours on Saturday were 9.7 (as opposed to 9.5 on a weekday) and 72 percent reported that hours increased.