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Why Men (at Least Pretend to) Work Longer Hours

by Luke Graham, Special to CNBC /
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Male workers are happier if they think they're working more hours than their friends and colleagues, according to a report from Maastrict University.

The report, called "Conspicuous Work: Peer Working Time, Labour Supply and Happiness for Male Workers" by the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market, explores how male workers compare their work patterns with their peers. It surveyed 3,042 Dutch male workers and asked about their personal situations, how many hours they worked and how many hours they thought their peers worked on average.

Men who thought they worked fewer hours than their counterparts were found to be less happy than those who thought they worked more, regardless of their working time or income.

According to the report's authors, this phenomenon, called "conspicuous work," occurs when "the individual derives status from working more than his peers, which increases his utility."

The report states: "In many social groups, an individual can indeed increase his status by telling everyone that he is very busy, preferably even more than others around him. Symmetrically, he can lose status if he has less to do than others."

Apparently this phenomenon only affects men. Marion Collewet, one of the report's authors, told CNBC by email: "The patterns of conspicuous work which we identify for male workers cannot be found for female workers in our data."

- With contribution from Toby Harris and CNBC's Bob Sullivan

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