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Leisure inequality: Who's bumming around more?

May 2, 2012: 9:23 AM ET

Sure, the wealthy earn more money...but they work a lot harder for it.

So says a new study that found that while the income gap between the rich and poor has grown since the 1980s, the leisure divide has widened too.

Highly educated men, who generally have higher incomes, had only 33.2 hours of leisure time a week by 2007, down 1.2 hours from 1985, according to the three National Bureau of Economic Research associates who authored the report.

Men with little education, by contrast, had 39.1 hours a week of free time, up 2.5 hours from 1985.

Women followed a similar pattern, with the highly educated losing 1.9 hours of leisure time, coming in at 30.3 hours by 2007, and those with little education gaining 0.2 of an hour to 35.2 hours.

Spending less time on the couch.

The researchers define the highly educated as those having more than 12 years of schooling. And they consider leisure to be activities such as watching TV, reading, socializing with friends and going to the movies.

More than half of the increase in leisure inequality can be attributed to higher unemployment rates of adults with less education and skills, said Erik Hurst, a University of Chicago professor who co-authored the report.

But even those who are unemployed and highly educated still have less leisure time than their lower-skilled unemployed counterparts, Hurst said. That's because the former spend more time on chores.

"Higher-skilled men do more stuff around the house such as cooking and childcare and not as much sitting around and watching TV," he said.

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