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November 04, 2013 2:56 PM Structural Reform of Time

By Mark Kleiman

If the claims that the twice-annual change from Standard to Daylight Saving causes bursts of auto and workplace accidents and sleep-related heath problems are true, it seems to me the argument for getting rid of the changes is strong. I’d appreciate expert reader opinions on the state of the evidence. (Jennifer Doleac at U.Va. warns it might be bad for crime.) Since I’m a “late” person, I’d rather go to permanent DST, but that’s not based on any analysis of which would be better socially. The more radical proposal - to adopt year-round time and also collapse the continental U.S. from four time zones to two, an hour apart - would greatly improve my life, both by shifting sunlight later in my day and by shrinking the time gap with the East Coast, making phone calls easier to schedule and reducing jet lag from a burdensome three hours to a trivial single hour. But again, I haven’t seen anything that looks like a benefit-cost study. This seems to me the sort of question that ought to be handed to a commission, or alternatively to the National Academies, for a study and some recommendations. It’s important enough to be worth getting right, and ought to have roughly zero ideological loading.

Of course, another and probably superior way to deal with the problem of kids going to school in the dark is to start the school day later, which would also better fit the circadian rhythm of teenagers and reduce after-school crime and other mischief.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the University of California Los Angeles.

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