What Daylight Saving Time Costs the US

alarm clock at bedside.
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  • When is Daylight Saving Time 2021: It started at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 14, and ends at 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 7.
  • Some research has estimated that Daylight Saving Time costs the U.S. at least $430 million annually
  • There is no consensus on the cost and benefits. Its advocates have made credible arguments for continuing to change the clocks twice a year and its detractors can make a good case for abandoning Daylight Saving Time.

Don’t forget to turn your clocks back one hour at 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 7, when Daylight Saving Time ends — although nowadays, many of your devices will update themselves. So, once the clock strikes 2, it’s really 1 a.m., which means you gain a precious hour of sleep. From Monday on, you’ll get more light in the bleak, cold mornings, but boy, will it start getting dark early in the evenings. 

The Germans originally devised Daylight Saving Time in 1916 in an effort to conserve energy during World War I. Soon after, much of Europe and the United States was forcing an extra hour of natural light in the spring, but has Daylight Saving Time outlived its usefulness? Does Daylight Saving Time cost more than it saves? As we prepare to fall back in 2021, let’s take a look at the cost of DST.

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The Cost of Daylight Saving Time 2021

It turns out, daylight saving time might be more of a bane than a boon for the workplace. A financial cost for the biannual switch is hard to pin down, but a study by Chmura Economics & Analytics estimated that Daylight Saving Time costs the U.S. more than $430 million a year. Other figures are even higher; a 2008 report by the Independent Institute claimed the annual costs for changing clocks twice a year could be as high as $1.7 billion.

So why does changing clocks costs money? Chmura’s study concluded that setting clocks forward “can lead to an increase in heart attacks, workplace injuries in the mining and construction sectors and increased cyberloafing that reduces productivity for people who typically work in offices.” Because changing clock times affects sleep, it might also affect people’s circadian rhythms. This circadian misalignment has consequences for workers, including possible drowsiness and added stress to the cardiovascular system. The “cyberloafing” Chmura outlines for white-collar workers indicates the time wasted spent browsing the web following changing the clocks, which decreases productivity and thus profits.

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Does Daylight Saving Time Actually Save Energy?

The United States followed Germany in adopting Daylight Saving Time in 1918 during World War I, but it wasn’t formalized until 1966 with the passage of the Uniform Time Act. Conclusions on whether or not Daylight Saving Time actually saves energy — ostensibly the entire reason it was created — are mixed.

A 2008 study with Indiana residents found turning the clocks forward an hour increased energy use rather than conserving it. Plus, there is evidence that worker productivity decreases when employees are robbed of an hour of sleep in the spring.

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Andrew Lisa contributed to the reporting for this article.

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About the Author

Sean joined the GOBankingRates team in 2018, bringing with him several years of experience with both military and collegiate writing and editing experience. Sean’s first foray into writing happened when he enlisted in the Marines, with the occupational specialty of combat correspondent. He covered military affairs both in garrison and internationally when he deployed to Afghanistan. After finishing his enlistment, he completed his BA in English at UC Berkeley, eventually moving to Southern California.
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