© 2016

The Economics of Multitasking

  • Editors
  • Charlene M. Kalenkoski
  • Gigi Foster

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xv
  2. Charlene M. Kalenkoski, Gigi Foster
    Pages 1-5
  3. Charlene M. Kalenkoski, Gigi Foster
    Pages 19-32
  4. Sabrina Wulff Pabilonia
    Pages 91-107
  5. Jay Stewart, Mary Dorinda Allard
    Pages 145-171
  6. Parama Chaudhury
    Pages 173-201
  7. Charlene M. Kalenkoski, Gigi Foster
    Pages 203-207
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 209-216

About this book


People regularly multitask, though we have been warned about the mental costs of "task-switching" in psychology and the popular press. Meanwhile, economists have remained silent on the possible economic ramifications – both good and bad – of producers and/or consumers doing more than one thing at once. This first-of-its-kind volume explores the frequency, patterns, and economic implications of multitasking, with a particular focus on the multitasking of non-market activities such as child care, housework, eating, and studying. Using data sets from around the world and best-practice empirical and experimental techniques, the contributors to this volume explore the association of multitasking with output and welfare in a range of settings of interest to economists. Contributions in theory, empirical work, data management, and concepts are combined to yield the discipline's first holistic view of multitasking and to identify where the research frontiers lie in this area.


care economic theory production familial economics family

About the authors

Charlene M. Kalenkoski is Associate Professor and Co-Director of the PhD Program in Personal Financial Planning at Texas Tech University, USA. She earned her PhD in Economics from The George Washington University, USA, in 2002. Her research focuses on how people allocate their time, particularly parents, students, and retirees, and how their allocation of time affects their human capital and overall well-being.

Gigi Foster is Associate Professor in the School of Economics at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. She earned her BA from Yale University and her PhD in economics from the University of Maryland. Her research interests and contributions lie in the areas of education, social influence, behavioral economics, and the multi-disciplinary analysis of human behavior in groups.

Bibliographic information

Industry Sectors
Finance, Business & Banking


"The layered rhythms of daily life make it remarkably difficult to measure time use in a clear and consistent way. The essays in this volume go beyond documentation of multitasking to adapt and improve the neoclassical economic theory of time allocation. They also yield valuable insights into issues of survey design and interpretation, particularly relevant to the definition of time devoted to the care of children and needy adults. These are important contributions to the burgeoning field of time-use analysis." - Nancy Folbre, Director, Program on Gender and Care Work, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

"The Economics of Multitasking, particularly in unpaid household production, challenges the treatment of this work in mainstream economics. This book uses best practice economic techniques to open a new space for the analysis of unpaid work, here focused on children and their care. In doing this it breaks a silence and opens many new opportunities for the use of these tools across household work activities." - Marilyn Waring, Professor of Public Policy, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand

"While multitasking has received some attention from researchers and firms interested in on-the-job productivity, it is high time that the multitasking of other time uses received similar attention. Kalenkoski and Foster's book takes an important step in this direction, extending economic theory to recognize multitasking, documenting the prevalence of multitasking, empirically modeling the decision to multitask, and perhaps most importantly examining the impact of multitasking on outcomes." - Leslie S. Stratton, Professor of Economics, Virginia Commonwealth University, USA

"Time-use scientists Kalenkoski and Foster have assembled an edited volume that comprehensively examines how and why people multitask different types of activities. The theoretical, methodological, and empirical analyses that make up the volume are not only informative but will also change the way that time-use studies are conducted going forward." - David C. Ribar, Professorial Research Fellow, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne, Australia