Social Participation and Family Welfare: The Money and Time Costs of Leisure

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The concept of social exclusion has become the central organising concept in social policy research, especially in Europe. The term ‘social exclusion’ has displaced many of the terms formerly in use, such as ‘inequality’, ‘deprivation’ and ‘poverty’. Social exclusion is a multi-dimensional concept embracing economic, social and political deprivations, that alerts us to the significance of social identity, culture, agency and, ultimately, power relations. In contrast to some earlier research traditions, the perspective of social exclusion draws our attention to how people can be ‘shut out of society’ by their inability to participate in customary leisure activities. The ability to participate in leisure is the product of both access to leisure goods and services, and a sufficient quantity of leisure time. An analysis of the most recent Household Expenditure Survey shows that the consumption of leisure goods and services is powerfully determined by income. Consequently, low income can lead to exclusion from leisure participation. However, analysis of the most recent Time Use Survey shows that access to time for leisure participation is most powerfully determined by hours of employment, family responsibilities and gender. After controlling for working hours, household income has no significant effect on available leisure time. A leisure-time poverty line, based on half-median leisure time, is used to show which groups are most excluded from leisure by time constraints. The paper considers a range of policies to alleviate social exclusion from leisure participation.
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Bittman, Michael
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