20 arguments (mostly) in favor of Daylight Saving Time
It’s time for that twice-yearly American ritual: people complaining about having to change their clocks by an hour.
Critics of Daylight Saving Time are far more vocal (but apparently less politically influential) than supporters. But I’m pro-Daylight Saving Time, so in the interest of balancing out the debate thought I’d lay out some arguments in favor of clock-changing (as well as acknowledging a few valid counter-arguments):
- Daylight Saving Time has both benefits and costs.
- On balance, the benefits outweigh the costs.
- Daylight Saving Time is a thing because of changes in the solar day as the Earth orbits the sun.
- It’s a generally a good thing to adjust our schedules to match the changing solar day, so that we’re active during daylight hours.
- Before clocks, people did this naturally, making minor adjustments to their routines on a daily basis. But this would be too complicated for our modern, rationalized economy.
- Adjusting the clocks forward an hour in the spring and back an hour in the fall is a good compromise.
- Summer nights when the sun is out well into the evening are amazing.
- With or without DST, winters won’t have sunny evenings. So it’s worth it to not have 8:30 a.m. sunrises. (As a late riser, this is a less pronounced benefit for me, but morning people may appreciate it more.)
- Year-round Daylight Saving Time would be better than abolishing it, but keeping the switch is better than either.
- It does suck to have to adjust your internal clock by an hour twice a year, but the annoyance of this is overstated.
- The annoyance of the time change is amplified if you have small children or pets. My strong pro-DST position may be motivated by the fact that I have neither.
- Daylight Saving Time makes way more sense the further from the equator you live, and less sense the closer to the equator you live.
- In a southern city like Miami (25˚N), the solar day varies from about 10.5 hours of light in the winter to 13.75 hours of light in the summer. In a northern city like Minneapolis (45˚N), the solar day varies from just under 9 hours in the winter to 15.5 hours in the summer. Adjusting your clocks to match the sun makes far more sense when your solar day changes by 6+ hours around the year than when it changes by just over 2 hours.
- There’s a good argument for allowing local control here. Arizona, southern and sunny, is a good place to not change clocks. Minnesota, Washington and Maine are good places to change them.
- I may be biased here as well, since I’ve lived my entire life in northern latitudes (Iowa, Nebraska, Chicago, Seattle, South Dakota, the Twin Cities.)
- Too much local variation is a problem because time differences make it harder to collaborate between different regions. A simpler system is better.
- The supposed economic benefits of DST are questionable at best, and definitely massively overblown by DST supporters. Some areas of energy use and economic activity are very modestly improved by DST, and others very modestly harmed; on balance it’s a net wash. The real benefit of Daylight Saving Time is human comfort.
- Studies showing increased health problems and accidents in the day or two following a clock change are something to keep an eye on. My gut says that rare (but dangerous) events getting slightly more common for a few days a year shouldn’t be a major factor in this decision, since lots and lots of factors can cause similar impacts and we don’t adjust national policy because of it.
- It was a mistake for Congress to expand the U.S.’s Daylight Saving Time from March to November last decade. Ideally we’d have six months on DST (May-October) and six months off. April-October, like it was before 2007, would be fine too.
- Changing your clocks by an hour is really not that bad. You’ll forget about the annoyance after a day or two. And you’ll really appreciate the difference in the height of summer and the depth of winter.
To learn more, you can see how Daylight Saving Time affects your schedule and see geographic variations on how DST affects hours of sunlight.
Odds are you probably disagree with me. Tell me why!