Work Centrality One way to assess the extent to which work is a central life interest for workers has been to ask them if they would continue to work if they could live comfortably without working. This question was first asked in a study conducted by Morse and Weiss at the University of Michigan (1955). They found that 80 percent of a national sample of male workers said they would continue to work even if they did not have to do so for financial reasons. They interpreted this finding as demonstrating both that work was a central activity to most American men, and that work meant more to them than simply an economic activity. This basic result has since been replicated a number of times in the United States (for a summary, see O'Brien, 1992).

A form of this question was also asked in the General Social Survey: "If you were to get enough money to live as comfortably as you would like for the rest of your life, would you continue to work or would you stop working?" As Table 2.2 shows, 69 percent of Americans in 1973 said they would continue to work. In

TABLE 2.2

Trends in Work Centrality in the United States, 1973-1996 General Social Survey

Year

% of Americans Saying They Would Continue to Work

1973

69.1

1974

64.8

1976

69.0

1977

70.0

1980

76.9

1982

72.3

1984

76.0

1985

69.5

1987

75.4

1988

71.0

1989

72.2

1990

72.7

1991

66.9

1993

69.0

1994

65.8

1996

68.0



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