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Examining inequality in the time cost of waiting

Journal Title Nature Human Behavior
Published Date February 09, 2023
Research Topic
Research Type
Authors Katie Vinopal


Time spent waiting for services represents unproductive time lost while fulfilling needs. We use time diary data from the nationally representative American Time Use Survey to estimate the difference between high- and low-income people in time spent waiting for basic services. Relative to high-income people, low-income people are one percentage point more likely to wait on an average day, are three percentage points more likely to wait when using services, spend an additional minute waiting for services on a typical day and spend 12 more minutes waiting when waiting occurs. The unconditional gap in waiting time suggests low-income people spend at least six more hours per year waiting for services than high-income people. The income gap in waiting time cannot be explained by differences in family obligations, demographics, education, work time or travel time. Further, high-income Black people experience the same higher average wait times as low-income people regardless of race.