Lawmakers, Some Economists Disagree Over Impact of Permanent Daylight Savings

How Things Could Change

Last week, the US Senate passed a bill that would make daylight savings time permanent as of November 2023. Switching the clocks back and forth has been a source of controversy for years, with many reporting lost sleep and other problems.

The measure now moves to the House of Representatives, and President Joe Biden would have the option to sign it into law if it gets to his desk. Lawmakers argue the issue is one of convenience and safety, given car accidents surge when commuters drive home in the dark.

Opposing Economic Arguments

The bill is called the Sunshine Protection Act, and lawmakers argue it can be looked at as a stimulus package of sorts. Senate members state that the move would boost consumer spending and shift energy consumption, as a result of the extra hour of daylight.

Some economists are less convinced. Kurt Rankin of PNC says research is limited regarding how time shifts affect the economy, adding that the actual impact to the national economy could be minimal. For example, in 2016 JPMorgan Chase (JPM) did a study that showed consumer spending dropped by 3.5% after the end of daylight savings time in November, but it only looked at Los Angeles.

Biggest Benefit Could Be Safety

Americans are of a mixed mind when it comes to switching the clocks twice a year. An AP-NORC poll in 2019 determined 30% of respondents favored permanent daylight savings, while an equal 30% wanted to keep the current system in place. The remaining 40% said they’d opt for standard time year-round.

One thing lawmakers seem most focused on is the safety argument. University of Washington professor Steven P. Calandrillo told Congress “darkness kills,” because during periods of decreased visibility people are rushing to get home while more kids are outside playing. Taken all together, those in favor of permanent daylight savings cite the potential economic benefits, added safety, and just personal preference. How the measure fares in the House of Representatives is what to watch for next.

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