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Fortunately, the Tribune had given me a heads-up that trouble was coming. The Saturday edition served notice that the impending shift to daylight saving time "could cost the Chicago metropolitan area nearly $15.6 million, or about $1.62 per person." This financial blow had been calculated by Chmura Economics & Analytics of Richmond, Virginia.
Said senior analyst Xiaobing Shuai: "Some researchers found out that when people lose sleep they lose focus and spend more time on the Internet, checking email. So we look at basically the time that could be lost due to those activities, and based on the loss of productivity, we figure out the cost."
And don't forget the heart attacks some people suffer thanks to sleep deprivation, Shuai added.
In the name of balance, Tribune reporter Rachael Levy offered the view of University of Chicago lecturer Grace Tsiang that "this may be the most silly 'cost analysis' I have ever read. The focus on heart attacks and workplace accidents presumes that adults can't be alerted to the hazards of sleeplessness and just go to sleep earlier."
I would add that the Chmura Economics & Analytics study also seems to have given too little weight to the detail that daylight saving time begins on a Sunday, a day when most of us can sleep in and hardly anyone needs to be productive.
Levy noted that the study, whose underlying message seems to be stay in bed, was sponsored by a bedding company.
And yet, do we dare dismiss a news article warning that some shift in circumstance "could cost" us dearly? Such articles are a mainstay of the information industry.
Heavy snow in Britain? It "could cost" the UK economy almost 500 million pounds, says the news.
A royal wedding? It "could cost" the same economy almost $50 billion, says the news.
High-speed rail? It "could cost" Kings County, California, $100 million, says the news.
New pollution rules? They "could cost" the American economy one trillion dollars, says the news.
A two-day strike in India? It "could cost" the economy around 200 billion rupees, says the news.
What I'm getting at here is the possibility, however remote, that "could cost" signals somebody with an ax to grind pulling a whopping sum out of his ass. If this article were being written for print publication I would now add gravitas by searching for prominent economists who support this thesis. As it's a mere Bleader post, I'll forgo the research and move on to my next post. But assume I would have found them.