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November 27, 2012

Slate: The neglected economics of trying to find a job you enjoy

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

In that case what you see is that wages (how much do you earn per hour) rise faster than incomes (how much do you earn per year) because higher wages in part induce less work. But that's driven by a very simplistic picture of the economy, where you're either working on the assembly line (earning wages) or at home watching TV (enjoying leisure). Another thing people can do is deliberately earn lower wages in order to obtain better job amenities. I was reading the other day about Pecan Lodge in Dallas: Newcomer of the Year at the 2012 Texas Monthly BBQ Festival. Its founders used to be consultants with Accenture, but they decided they'd rather quit and smoke meat.

That's really the same kind of leisure/income tradeoff as you see if workers cut back their hours, but it'll show up differently in national statistics. Instead of wages and productivity rising while income stays flat and hours fall, you'll see hours stay flat while wages and productivity fall. Phlogiston economics will say that Pecan Lodge is an example of technological innovation slowing down since it reduces total factor productivity, when it's really just an example of people taking advantage of the fact that America is a wealthy society to try to improve their unpriced job amenities.

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Yglesias (@mattyglesias) is Slate's business and economics correspondent. Before joining the magazine he worked for ThinkProgress, the Atlantic, TPM Media and the American Prospect. His most recent book is "The Rent Is Too Damn High."

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