Nov. 4 – Trick or Treat? Who Benefits When Daylight Changes?

ryanBell Ringers, Economics(BR)

On Nov. 4, 2018  most of us will need to turn our clocks back one hour for Daylight Saving Time.

In 1918, the United States instituted Daylight Savings Time (DST). The idea was that during the summer, a lot of daylight was “wasted” because the sun came up so early in the morning, while people were still sleeping. By moving the clock one hour, it was thought, people would need to use less electricity to light their houses, and would get more done.

Since then, most of the country has, twice yearly, moved its clocks. “Spring Forward, Fall Back” helps you remember which way. Wonderfully, this Sunday morning [November 4, 2018], most of us will have a 25 hour “day” to sleep, or just get more stuff done.

Almost since Daylight Savings Time was instituted, its benefits have been disputed. For some people, such as dairy or chicken farmers, it throws their carefully regulated schedules out of whack – cows’ milking schedules take some time to adjust, and chickens often don’t follow a 24-hour day anyway.

For humans, there are some studies which indicate detrimental health effects. In essence, the whole country suffers from “jet lag” twice a year, and sleepiness has been argued to cause a slight increase in accidents.

Some states have refused to follow the rest of the country. Arizona, for instance, doesn’t use DST, and until recently neither did Indiana. You see this in the clock settings on your computer (each has a different setting).

In most of the world, where DST is used, the clock changes early on the first Sunday morning after the spring and fall equinoxes (generally March 20 and September 22). The United States used to be close to this, but not quite. During those weeks, the relation between the time in Europe and the U.S. would be off for a week or so.

Recently, the U.S. changed again, ending DST the first Sunday after October 31. Any idea why?

Candy companies lobbied the government to postpone the change until after Halloween, thinking that more daylight hours on Halloween would lead to more trick-or-treating, and higher candy sales. You can read more about that from the History Channel’s History Stories article: The Sweet Relationship Between Daylight Saving Time and Halloween.

Listen to Melissa Block from NPR interview Michael Downing, author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, and Professor at Tufts University. [Recorded in March of 2017].

  1. Do you experience “jet lag” when the time changes? Do you think you are less productive for a few days thereafter?
  2. Do you think policies like this should be determined by sales and marketing concerns of specific industries?
  3. Why do you think politicians were persuaded by the arguments of the candy lobby?
  4. The Special Interest Effect is an important component of understanding how political and economic interests interrelate. Can you explain the “Special Interest Effect” in relation to this issue?

Image Citation:

31, Oct. 2018, Bowl of Halloween Candy [Digital photograph].  Retrieved from <>.