Economists often apply the term “opportunity costs” to high and middle-income people, meaning that the time they spend on one task is time not available to perform other, potentially more valuable tasks. But social scientists rarely apply the concept to low-income people, acting as if their time is essentially worthless. Sort of like the spouse who doesn’t count your food shopping, cooking, cleaning, child-rearing, accounting for family finances, shuttling family member to appointments, taking care of your sick parents, etc., as work.
Yet, in addition to lacking money, low-income Americans frequently lack time. Just as many personal relationships collapse when people don’t have “quality time” with each other, a lack of time works mightily against the efforts of lowincome people to have constructive relationships with their families and with the broader society.