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STUDY: Young Men Playing Video Games Instead Of Finding Jobs

A new study shows that young males would rather sit on their rears while playing “Grand Theft Auto” than look for long, steady work.

According to research from economists from Princeton, the University of Rochester and the University of Chicago, non-college educated men are rejecting full-time employment and spending as much as 40 hours a week playing video games. While some might blame this phenomenon on the economy, evidence shows that these young males do it for the instant gratification.

“When I play a game, I know if I have a few hours I will be rewarded,” said Danny Izquierdo, a 22-year-old who lives with his parents in Silver Spring, Md. “With a job, it’s always been up in the air with the amount of work I put in and the reward.”

​The University of Chicago’s Erik Hurst, an economist at the Booth School of Business, confirms that happiness, at least for now, has gone up among this group of people.

“Happiness has gone up for this group, despite employment percentages having fallen, and the percentage living with parents going up. And that’s different than for any other group,” says Hurst.

That happiness may, perhaps inevitably, be short-lived. While the young, able-bodied males may take joy in the moment playing video games, they will be in for a rude-awakening when their 30’s and 40’s hit, having spent the majority of their adult life living at home with mom and dad while using all of their free time to play video games. Izquierdo says that his time spent playing video games is rewarding, but the reward is purely carnal. No money awarded for racking up a high score, no job promotion for beating that next level, no relationships gained by saving the day. The experience evaporates the moment they shut off the console. Years, perhaps decades, spent in such tedium will only spell disaster for someone as their youth fades to middle-age.

Another problem, as noted by Greg Kaplan, an economist at the University of Chicago, is that an unprecedented portion of young men playing video games could equal less viable labor in the workforce. “That’s a big chunk of labor that could be used for something, and we’re not using it,” said Kaplan. The Chicago Tribune has more:

As of last year, 22 percent of men between the ages of 21 and 30 with less than a bachelor’s degree reported not working at all in the previous year — up from only 9.5 percent in 2000. Overall, only 88 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 are working or looking for work, the third-lowest among 34 developed countries, according to the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Young men without college degrees have replaced 75 percent of the time they used to spend working with time on the computer, mostly playing video games, according to the study, which is based on the Census Bureau’s time-use surveys. Before the recession, from 2004 to 2007, young, unemployed men without college degrees were spending 3.4 hours per week playing video games. By 2011 to 2014, that time had shot up to 8.6 hours per week on average.

Previous assumptions dictated that a poor economy leads to time spent playing video games, but the research actually shows that video games lure young males away from the work force.

“People have switched so much time, more time than we would have predicted, to computers and video games, and our model attributes that to technological progress,” Hurst said.

Alan Krueger, a former chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, said the research presents “strong evidence that the increase in the number of less-educated young men who are not working is not entirely a result of weak demand for their services.” He added, “They find evidence that a portion … of the decrease in work time of less-educated young men can be a result of the appeal of video games.”

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