Economic productivity by age and sex: 2007 estimates for the United States

Med Care. 2009 Jul;47(7 Suppl 1):S94-103. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e31819c9571.


Background: Human capital estimates of labor productivity are often used to estimate the economic impact of diseases and injuries that cause incapacitation or death.

Objectives: Estimates of average hourly, annual, and lifetime economic productivity, both market and household, were calculated in 2007 US dollars for 5-year age groups for men, women, and both sexes in the United States.

Research design: Data from the American Time Use Survey were used to estimate hours of paid work and household services and hourly and annual earnings and household productivity. Present values of discounted lifetime earnings were calculated for each age group using the 2004 US life tables and a discount rate of 3% per year and assuming future productivity growth of 1% per year.

Subjects: The estimates of hours and productivity were calculated using the time diaries of 72,922 persons included in the American Time Use Survey for the years 2003 to 2007.

Results: The present value of lifetime productivity is approximately $1.2 million in 2007 dollars for children under 5 years of age. For adults in their 20s and 30s, it is approximately $1.6 million and then it declines with increasing age. Productivity estimates are higher for males than for females, more for market productivity than for total productivity.

Conclusions: Changes in hours of paid employment and household services can affect economic productivity by age and sex. This is the first publication to include estimates of household services based on contemporary time use data for the US population.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Censuses
  • Efficiency
  • Female
  • Household Work / economics*
  • Humans
  • Income* / statistics & numerical data
  • Income* / trends
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Economic
  • Salaries and Fringe Benefits* / statistics & numerical data
  • Salaries and Fringe Benefits* / trends
  • Sex Distribution
  • Survival Analysis
  • United States
  • Work / economics*
  • Work / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult