Are Rich People Really Rich Because They Work More?
12:22 pm, April 28th | by Amy Tennery
Of all the enduring arguments against taxing rich people at a higher rates, there is one more persistent than most: “I worked to get where I am!”
The argument is that wealthy people are wealthy because they worked harder than everyone else, while overcoming just as many obstacles, and are therefore more entitled to be rich.
But do high-earners actually put in more hours than everyone else? Actually a new report says yes. But all may not be as it seems.
First the report: It claims that the high-income workers spend more hours at work and fewer hours engaging in “leisure activities.” The study, conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research (which we found over at the Wall Street Journal), noted that over the last 30 years the rich have put in increasing hours at the desk and (not surprisingly) correspondingly less time doing happythings like experiencing sunlight. Low-earners, meanwhile, put in fewer and fewer hours on the job.
Incidentally, as the WSJ points out, high-educated women have seen “their leisure time decrease to 30.3 hours from 32.2 hours [per week]. Educated women, in other words, had the largest decline in leisure time” of all the demographics covered in the study. Well, bully to that.
But what the study fails to address is this: With the manner in which “work” is conducted today, what constitutes as hours on job anymore? One could argue that working from home doesn’t always constitute a “work hours” (since it usually comes in snippets and Blackberry e-mails), but it still sort of counts, right? It would also make sense that high-income earners can afford certain conveniences that make it easier for them to put in more hours on the job (i.e., full-time childcare or a spouse who’s able to stay at home with the kids). With childcare not counted as “work,” are we really getting an accurate picture of the time and effort low-income families put in to make a living? And what of the low-income folks who would work more but can’t find jobs?
Do the rich really work more? Or does it only seem that way on paper?