The leisure time of the poor and the rich:
causes and consequences of a neglected issue
Some studies on inequality have taken into account the multidimensionality of individual well-being. Nevertheless, few studies have paid attention to leisure time, despite its indisputable influence on well-being. The first goal of the paper is to shed light on the empirical evidence on leisure time distribution and its relationship with income; an evaluation of whether the former is correlated with income distribution, compensating for or magnifying income inequality, will be proposed. The paper will also provide an explanation of the socio-economic mechanisms and the incentive system behind the evidence on leisure time distribution and its evolution in the last decades, drawing on the theories of Veblen, Gershuny, Becker and Scitovsky. The second goal of the paper is to consider how individuals endowed with different incomes allocate their leisure time among different activities, taking into account that they may also differ in terms of life skills. The latter represent the individuals’ cultural capital and play a fundamental role in shaping individual decisions about how to use leisure time, which in turn produce non-negligible «social externalities». In this framework, an analysis of the implications in terms of individual and social well-being of different distributions of leisure time among income classes will be put forward.