The old adage that "time is money" essentially says it all, but unfortunately it does not tell one how to measure the value of time when measuring the available economic resources in a family unit. Nor does it tell one how to take account of the fact that two families with similar economic resources might have vastly different time resources that somehow should be taken into account in determining their material well-being. In this section we first illustrate the dilemma and the seemingly inadequate strategy of just ignoring the value of time when measuring a family's command over resources. Next we show actual expenditure data that reinforce the concern that it is not appropriate simply to count all the dollars of income and ignore all the time resources.
To illustrate the issue simply, consider two households. Household A has one adult; household B has two adults; neither has any children. The official (1992) poverty thresholds for these households (averaged by age of the head) are $7,143 and $9,137, respectively. This pair of thresholds implies that household B requires 128 percent as much income as household A to be at comparable poverty thresholds.
With these numbers, we can illustrate the question of time; see Table C-1. Since there are 168 hours in each week, household A has a total of 168 hours available every week, and B has twice that much time, 336 hours, since both adults have 168. Suppose that within each week every person requires 70 hours for sleep, personal hygiene, and eating—8 hours for sleep and 2 hours for personal hygiene and eating. (We use these values only for illustration and profess no expertise about their magnitudes; if the numbers are changed, the same points apply.) Subtracting this 70 hours per week from the total of 168 leaves just under 100 hours per person for discretionary use, that is, for all other activities.
Next, assume that the adults in households A and B each have a wage rate of $3.57. We selected this arbitrary wage rate to yield exactly $7,143 in annual income per adult if that adult worked 40 hours each week for 50 weeks of the year. This wage rate permits the full-time earner in household A to achieve exactly the poverty threshold level of income. Subtracting that 40 hours from the discretionary weekly hours, the adult in that household has now 58 hours available for all remaining activities. But for household B, the two adults only need to be employed a combined total of 51 hours per week to earn the poverty threshold level of income. One of the two might work full time, for 40 hours a week, and the other work part time for about 11 hours a week; or they might both work part time, averaging a little over 25 hours of work per