America's ‘Vacation Gap’

June 17, 1988

Report Outline
Special Focus


In Europe, workers take extensive vacations, and their time off is often guaranteed by law. In the United States vacations are viewed as a privilege, a cost of doing business that should be minimized. America's “vacation gap” with Europe is not new, but circumstances are. As one economist put it, “it used to be we had the living standard, they had the leisure. Now they have both.”

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Leisure, In the 1950s, it seemed to loom before American like a gigantic sci-fi monster, menacing an unprepared populace. Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. in 1957 warned that the anticipated increase in leisure was “the most dangerous threat hanging over American society.” Novelist and social critic Harvey Swados agreed. “The problem of what 200 million of us will do with our increasing leisure time …is so awesome in its magnitude as to be terrifying,” he wrote.

In retrospect, the threat seems to have been more than a bit exaggerated. The 40-hour workweek remains the standard for U.S. workers, and annual vacations average little more than two weeks. Americans are scheduled to work more hours than workers in most other industrialized countries and get far less vacation time. In fact, as a result of the increase in the number of working women in recent years, many American families now enjoy less real leisure than in the past.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Tourism and Vacation
Sep. 24, 2021  Travel and COVID-19
Nov. 09, 2018  Global Tourism Controversies
Oct. 20, 2006  Ecotourism
Jun. 17, 1988  America's ‘Vacation Gap’
May 04, 1984  Tourism's Economic Impact
Jul. 21, 1978  Tourism Boom
May 14, 1969  Summer Camps and Student Travel
May 18, 1966  Tourist Dollar Gap
Apr. 19, 1961  Two-Way Tourism
Jul. 20, 1955  Competition for Passenger Travel
Jul. 03, 1946  Travel Boom
Jun. 17, 1930  Foreign and Domestic Tourist Traffic
Labor Standards and Practices
Travel and Tourism