Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are chasing a bill that will affect every resident in America: AStarting in November 2023. In addition to avoiding the nuisance – and lack of sleep – of changing the clock twice a year, the effort could boost the economy, lawmakers say.
Lawmakers said in a release about the bill that the Sunshine Protection Act should boost consumer spending and change energy consumption by giving Americans an extra hour of sunshine at the end of the workday. In an op-ed in The Hill, Sam Lyman, policy director for the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation, wrote that the bill’s passage could “jump-start” the economy and effectively act as a “stimulus package”. .
But the economic benefits of year-round DST may be more obscure than its proponents suggest, according to PNC economist Kurt Rankin, who studied time shifts and their impact on the economy. First, there isn’t much research available on this issue, at least when compared with other aspects of the economy, such as wages or inflation. And the scope of current research is limited, raising questions about the national economic impact.
“From an economist standpoint, I think the benefits will be minimal,” Rankin told CBS Moneywatch. “It’s not something that’s going to fix the crises facing the US economy over the next year or two — inflation concerns, rising interest rates, supply chain constraints.”
A finding often cited as evidence of the economic benefits of the switch comes from the JPMorgan Chase Institute, which found in 2016 that consumer spending fell 3.5% after the end of daylight saving time in November. This suggests that some consumers reduce their spending when at the end of the day they have less than an hour of daylight to shop or work.
But the Chase Institute study focused on spending within a relatively limited range in Los Angeles. And the researchers noted that other policy changes, such as the sales tax holiday, could provide a bigger boost to consumer spending.
A boost for restaurants?
Some business groups say they are studying the issue. The National Retail Federation said in an email that it has “historically supported daylight saving time, but this position does not reflect the current debate on creating permanent daylight saving time, which was passed by the Senate this week.”
“We are examining the implications of this change and in consultation with our members,” it added.
That being said, Rankin believed that switching to permanent DST could benefit one sector of the economy: hospitality businesses such as restaurants and hotels. More daylight at the end of the day could drive demand for services that would help those businesses as well as gig economy workers like DoorDash drivers.
“This is the sector that is still having the most difficulty in returning from the pandemic, so it would be helpful to give some protection to the workers in that area,” he said.
Rankin said he himself likes the idea of a permanent switch, even though he sees no economic case for the bill. On March 13, days after moving the clocks forward by one hour, he said, “I’m in favor of getting rid of changing clocks because it messes up your schedule.” weeks, as I try to adjust.”
The Energy Saving Argument Is “Dubious”
Research findings on energy savings – one of the primary reasons proponents suggest making daylight saving time permanent – are mixed. A 2008 Department of Energy study found that after increasing daylight saving time in 2005, there was a 0.5% saving in electricity per day over four weeks.
Researchers at Yale University found in a 2011 paper that daylight saving time actually increased energy consumption in Indiana as higher heating and cooling costs outweighed by lower demand for electric lighting. “We find that the long-standing rationale for DST is questionable,” the researchers wrote.
But that paper is based on energy consumption in one state – once again, in a small part of the US – and may not be more widely applicable.
unanimous approval in the Senate
The bill, which was unanimously approved by the Senate on Tuesday, must now be approved by the House and signed by the president to become law.
At the House Energy Subcommittee on Consumer Protection hearing on March 9, experts urged lawmakers to make changes, citing issues such as safety and an increase in traffic accidents when commuters are traveling during darkness.
“Simply put, darkness kills. And the darkness of the evening is far more lethal than the darkness of the morning,” University of Washington professor Steve P. Calendrillo told the committee.
According to polls, Americans themselves are divided on the issue. About 3 in 10 people said they would like to save daylight hours throughout the year, while a similar number said they would prefer to keep the current system of falling back one hour in November and moving forward one hour in March, An AP-NORC poll found in 2019. Another 4 out of 10 people said they want to switch to standard time throughout the year.
In the end, the rationale for switching to permanent daylight saving time may come down to personal preference, not economics. As JPMorgan Chase put it: Americans can “just enjoy the extra daylight.”