Top 3 Pros and Cons of Daylight Saving Time

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Daylight Saving Time (DST) ends at 2am on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020 when clocks “fall back” one hour, and will begin at 2am on Sunday, Mar. 14, 2021 with “spring forward” when most of the United States moved clocks forward by one hour.

In 2020, during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rick Scott (R-FL) proposed legislation to keep the United States on Daylight Saving Time until Nov. 7, 2021. Rubio stated, “Our government has asked a lot of the American people over the past seven months, and keeping the nation on Daylight Saving Time is just one small step we can take to help ease the burden. More daylight in the after school hours is critical to helping families and children endure this challenging school year.” [35]

DST was implemented in the United States nationally on Mar. 31, 1918 as a wartime effort to save an hour’s worth of fuel (gas or oil) each day to light lamps and coal to heat homes. It was repealed nationwide in 1919, and then maintained by some individual localities (such as New York City) in what Time Magazine called “a chaos of clocks” until 1966 when the Uniform Time Act made DST consistent nationwide. [8]

Approximately 1.5 billion people in 70 countries observe DST worldwide. [26][29] In the United States, 48 states participate in Daylight Saving Time. Arizona, Hawaii, some Amish communities, and the American territories (American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands) do not observe DST. [8] 55% of Americans said they are not disrupted by the time change, 28% report a minor disruption, and 13% said the change is a major disruption. [20] However, 40% of Americans would prefer to stay in Standard Time all year and 31% would prefer to stay in Daylight Saving Time all year, eliminating the time change. 28% of Americans would keep the time change twice a year. [34]

Should the United States Keep Daylight Saving Time?

Pro 1

Daylight Saving Time's (DST) Longer Daylight Hours Promote Safety.

Longer daylight hours make driving safer, lowers car accident rates, and lowers the risk of pedestrians being hit by a car. [3] [30] Economists Jennifer Doleac, PhD, and Nicholas Sanders, PhD, found that robberies drop about 7% overall, and 27% in the evening hours after the spring time change. [17] [22] They stated, “Most street crime occurs in the evening around common commuting hours of 5 to 8 PM, and more ambient light during typical high-crime hours makes it easier for victims and passers-by to see potential threats and later identify wrongdoers.” [17] Also, daylight in the evening makes it safer for joggers, people walking dogs after work, and children playing outside, among others, because drivers are able to see people more easily and criminal activity is lowered.

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Pro 2

DST Is Good for the Economy.

Later daylight means more people shopping after work, increasing retail sales, and more people driving, increasing gas and snacks sales for eight months of the year (the time we spend in DST). [2] [18] [19] The golf industry reported that one month of DST was worth $200 to $400 million because of the extended evening hours golfers can play. [2] The barbecue industry estimated their profits increase $150 million for one month of DST. In 2007, an estimated $59 million was saved because fewer robberies were committed thanks to the sun being up later. [3] Chambers of Commerce tend to support DST because of the positive effect on the economy. [21] Consumer spending increases during DST, giving the economy a boost. Compared to Phoenix, Arizona, which does not have DST, Los Angeles, California, shoppers spent 3.5% less at local retailers after DST ended in the fall. [31]

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Pro 3

DST Promotes Active Lifestyles.

When the day is lighter later, people tend to participate in more outdoor activities after work. [14] Hendrik Wolff, PhD, Associate Professor of Economics at Simon Fraser University, stated, because of DST “people engaged in more outdoor recreation and less indoor-TV watching… An additional 3 percent of people engaged in outdoor behaviors who otherwise would have stayed indoors.” [2] Michael Downing, author of Spring Forward, stated, “Baseball [was] a huge early supporter, too, because there [was] no artificial illumination of parks, so [they could] get school kids and workers to ball games with the extended daylight, they have a later start time.” [12]

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Con 1

Daylight Saving Time (DST) Is Bad for Your Health.

Changing sleep patterns, even by one hour, goes against a person’s natural circadian rhythms and has negative consequences for health. [1] One study found that the risk of a heart attack increases 10% the Monday and Tuesday following the spring time change. [2] Researchers found an increase in cluster headaches (sudden and debilitating headaches) after the fall time change. [15] James Wyatt, PhD, Associate Professor at Rush University Medical Center, stated, “We’re encountering an increase in extra auto and workplace accidents on Monday or perhaps even carrying through the first week of the Spring time shift.” [1] In the weeks following the spring DST time change, male suicide rates rose in Australia compared to the weeks following the return to standard time in the fall. [4] DST increases the risk that a car accident will be fatal by 5-6.5% and results in over 30 more deaths from car accidents annually. [29]

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Con 2

DST Drops Productivity.

The Monday after the spring time change is called “Sleepy Monday,” because it is one of the most sleep-deprived days of the year. [23] The week after the spring DST time change sees an increase in “cyber-loafing” (employees wasting time on the internet) because they’re tired. [5] Dr. Till Roenneberg, a German chronobiologist, who studies the body’s relationship with light and dark, notes that the human circadian clock doesn’t adjust to DST and the “consequence of that is that the majority of the population has drastically decreased productivity, decreased quality of life, increasing susceptibility to illness, and is just plain tired.” [2]

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Con 3

DST Is Expensive.

William F. Shughart II, PhD, Economist at Utah State University, states that the simple act of changing clocks costs Americans $1.7 billion in lost opportunity cost based on average hourly wages, meaning that the ten or so minutes spent moving clocks, watches, and devices forward and backward could be spent on something more productive. [2] The Air Transport Association estimated that DST cost the airline industry $147 million dollars in 2007 thanks to confused time schedules with countries who do not participate in the time change. [1] According to the Lost-Hour Economic Index, moving the clocks forward has a total cost to the US economy of $434 million nationally, factoring in health issues, decreased productivity, and workplace injuries. [32]

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Discussion Questions

  1. Should the United States keep Daylight Saving Time? Why or why not?
  2. Do you feel the effects of springing forward and/or falling back? What effects and how do they impact your day?
  3. Compare and contract the economic benefits and disadvantages of Daylight Saving Time. Is DST good or bad for the economy overall? Explain your answer.

Did You Know?

  1. Benjamin Franklin is often credited with the idea of DST because, in a satirical letter to the authors of The Journal of Paris, he suggested the French wake earlier to take advantage of “using sunshine instead of candles.” [6][7][8]
  2. DST as we know it was proposed by a New Zealand entomologist, George Vernon Hudson, who wanted longer hours for insect study. [28]
  3. The first locality to enact DST was Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay, Ontario), Canada, in 1908. The first country to enact DST was Germany on Apr. 30, 1916, although the Germans dropped the time change at war’s end. [6][8]
  4. American farmers were opposed to DST because, regardless of what the clock said, their cows weren’t ready to be milked until later in the day during DST. [1][8]
  5. A resort in Madagascar created its own DST, which runs an hour ahead of the rest of the country, so the lemurs would “naturally join us in the Oasis garden… for the ‘5 O’clock tea.'” [9]
  6. Some ancient civilizations are known to have used practices similar to DST. Roman water clocks, for example, used different scales for different times of the year. [10]

1.Alexander Abad-Santos, "Daylight Saving Time Is America's Greatest Shame," theatlantic.com, Nov. 1, 2013
2.Brian Handwerk, "Time to Move On? The Case against Daylight Saving Time," nationalgeographic.com, Nov. 1, 2013
3.Dan Nosowitz, "Shut Up about Daylight Saving Time, It's Actually Great," popularmechanics.com, Oct. 31, 2016
4.Michael Berk, et al., "Small Shifts in Diurnal Rhythms Are Associated with an Increase in Suicide: The Effect of Daylight Saving," Sleep and Biological Rhythms, Jan. 2008
5.Michelle Gallardo, "Are You Goofing Off at Work Today?," abc7chicago.com, Mar. 13, 2012
6.Benjamin Franklin, "Letter to the Editor of The Journal of Paris, 1784," webexhibits.org, 1784
7.David Preau, "A Brief History of Daylight Saving Time," seizethedaylight.com (accessed Feb. 28, 2017)
8.Christopher Klein, "8 Things You May Not Know about Daylight Saving Time," history.com, Mar. 9, 2012
9.Malaka Gharib, "Much of the World Doesn't Do Daylight Saving Time. How Come?," npr.org, Mar. 12, 2016
10.Timeanddate.com, "History of Daylight Saving Time – DST," timeanddate.com (accessed Feb. 28, 2017)
11.Robert Valencia, "When Is Daylight Saving Time/Day 2017? Here's What You Need to Know," mic.com, Feb. 27, 2017
12.Olivia B. Waxman, "The Real Reason Why Daylight Saving Time Is a Thing," time.com, Nov. 4, 2016
13.Edward J. Markey, "Markey: It's Polar to Solar with Daylight Savings [sic] Time Extension," markey.senate.gov, Mar. 7, 2014
14.Leah Zerbe, "The Shocking Truth behind Daylight Saving Time," rodalesorganiclife.com, Mar. 11, 2016
15.Tracy Miller, "Daylight Saving Time Ends: How to Fall Back the Healthy Way," nydailynews.com, Nov. 1, 2013
16.Carli Brosseau, "Daylight Saving Time Linked to Lower Violent Crime Rates, Study Finds," oregonlive.com, Oct. 30, 2015
17.Jennifer Doleac and Nicholas J. Sanders, "Under the Cover of Darkness: How Ambient Light Influences Criminal Activity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, Dec. 8, 2015
18.NPR, "The Reasoning behind Changing Daylight Saving," npr.org, Mar. 8, 2007
19.Lucas Powers, "Daylight Saving Time 2016: How Big Business Benefits from More Sunshine," cbc.ca, Mar. 12, 2016
20.Princeton Survey Research Associates International, "Daylight Savings [sic] Time," princetondatasource.com (accessed Mar. 4, 2019)
21.Brian Handwerk, "The Politics of Daylight Saving Time," nationalgeographic.com, Oct. 28, 2015
22.Kevin Drum, "Want a Safer City? Keep Daylight Savings [sic] Time Year Round!," motherjones.com, Oct. 31, 2015
23.Cari Romm, "Thanks to Daylight Saving Time, Nobody's Getting Anything Done at Work Today," nymag.com, Mar. 13, 2017
24.Charles Q. Choi, "Does Daylight Saving Time Conserve Energy?," scientificamerican.com, Mar. 1, 2009
25.Stephanie Pappas, "Does Daylight Saving Time Really Save Energy?," livescience.com, Nov. 2, 2016
26.Kurt Snibbe, "How Daylight Saving Time Started – and Why This Year's Could Be the Last for California," mercurynews.com, Mar. 11, 2017
27.Time Zone Report, "Legislative Summary," timezonereport.com, Mar. 1, 2017
28.Sandy Hingston, "Daylight Saving Time Is Stupid and Expensive and Dangerous," phillymag.com, Oct. 30, 2015
29.Austin C. Smith, "Spring Forward at Your Own Risk: Daylight Saving Time and Fatal Vehicle Crashes," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Apr. 2016
30.Beverly Bird, "The Economic Impacts of Daylight Saving Time," reviewjournal.com, Mar. 13, 2017
31.Ben Steverman, "Proof Daylight Saving Time Is Dumb, Dangerous, and Costly," bloomberg.com, Mar. 10, 2017
32.SleepBetter, "SleepBetter Lost-Hour Economic Index," sleepbetter.org (accessed Mar. 13, 2017)
33.#LockTheClock, "Current Legislation," sco.tt/time (accessed Mar. 4, 2019)
34.AP and NORC, "Daylight Saving Time vs Standard Time," apnorc.org (accessed Feb. 27, 2020)
35. Celine Castronuovo, "Florida Senators Pushing to Keep Daylight Savings [sic] Time during Pandemic," thehill.com, Sep. 17, 2020