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American employees receive substantially less paid vacation than Europeans despite earning higher real wages and having greater personal wealth. Here we present past and current averages for individual countries, along with a brief history of the growth of paid vacations in the U.S. and Europe. Regression analyses of individual household data from the U.S. indicate that union membership substantially influences the length of vacation time for U.S. workers. This finding helps explain why the U.S. vacation time average is lower than the European average.