Work, Smarts, and Wealth

Comments Off on Work, Smarts, and Wealth
Work, Smarts, and Wealth

In earlier eras, people in the bottom half of the socio-economic pyramid typically worked from dawn to dusk, while the top 1 percent was rightly referred to as "the idle rich." Opportunities to use one's abilities were restricted, depending on the social class into which one was born. Therefore, it was rare that the smartest people were also the richest.

Many of those stereotypes still permeate the popular culture and create unjustified perceptions of unfairness, even among those who should know better. Fortunately, a careful examination of the data is providing ammunition for dispelling these misperceptions.

Consider the findings of a new study from the Centre for Time Use Research at Oxford University. This study confirms what every Trends subscriber knows intuitively: Rich, well-educated men and women are, on average, working much longer hours than those with low incomes.1

The researchers based their findings on the time diaries of men and women from 16 developed countries from 1961 to the present. These diaries were collected as part of the Multinational Time Use Study.

The study says the best-educated men used to work much shorter hours for pay—an echo of the leisure class reality, which was prevalent at the end of the 19th century. However, by the beginning of the 21st century, the best-educated men were working the longest hours. The best-educated women showed an even starker increase in working hours, as compared with similarly educated women 50 years ago.

Although in the past the least-educated used to work the longest hours, this data turns that idea on its head, replacing the 19th-century "leisure class" with a 21st-century "super working class."

This research, which compares the paid and unpaid working hours of people of different social backgrounds in developed economies over the past 50 years, suggests that the best educated are working harder now than they did in the 1960s. This could be because so-called "high-fliers" do not see leisure time as preferable to the office. Furthermore, because of the shift away from manual labor, a larger proportion of workers may now find their jobs more satisfying, emotionally and intellectually.

Another widely accepted myth is that the most successful people are not particularly smart; they are simply born with a lot of connections or inherited wealth. However, the evidence does not support that view.

When Jonathan Wai, of Duke University's Talent Identification Program, looked at the world's billionaires and other global elite, he found that, as a group, they were very highly educated and possessed very high cognitive abilities...

To continue reading, become a paid subscriber for full access.
Already a Trends Magazine subscriber? Login for full access now.

Subscribe for as low as $195/year

  • Get 12 months of Trends that will impact your business and your life
  • Gain access to the entire Trends Research Library
  • Optional Trends monthly CDs in addition to your On-Line access
  • Receive our exclusive "Trends Investor Forecast 2015" as a free online gift
  • If you do not like what you see, you can cancel anytime and receive a 100% full refund