From Slate comes an article pondering the strange mystery that lower-income people now seems to have significantly more leisure time than do upper-income people.
Will the harsh inequities of free-market capitalism never end!
The article puzzles over this historically unprecedented phenomenon. From my own personal experiences as a low-wage earner back during my extended college days (as with Zonker Harris, my junior year was the 3 best years of my life), I think the phenomenon arises because high-skill earners can easily raise their income by working a little more whereas low-skill workers cannot. High-skill workers therefore trade leisure for income and low-skill workers trade income for leisure.
Just to make myself clear, I am not saying I consider low-skill workers lazy. Far from it. Rather, I am saying that work rules and conditions simply don’t make putting in a lot more low-skill hours profitable enough for a reasonable individual to sacrifice their time.
For several years in misspent youth I ended up taking 12 hours of classes, working one full-time job and one or more part-time jobs. (I had discovered, much to my chagrin, that high SAT scores did not translate into marketable job skills.) I rapidly learned that many labor laws intended to “protect” me from exploitation actually made my life more difficult. For example, due to overtime requirements I couldn’t just work a 12-hour shift at one job and go home. Instead, I had to work an 8-hour shift at one job, then burn an hour or more traveling to or waiting for my second job and work 4 hours or less before going home. As a result, I ended up spending at least 1 unpaid hour more than I would have spent were I to have worked more hours at one job.
I also think that high-skill workers simply enjoy work more and find it easier to work extra hours. When I worked at Apple and other computer related jobs I enjoyed the actual work itself just as much as a recreational activity. Managers would have to toss me out of the building. I showed up every Monday morning, bright-eyed and eager to spend the next five days playing with the company-provided toys and getting payed to do so. (Having spent several years working scut jobs no doubt put all that into perspective.)
Combine those factors with better pay and higher-skill workers simply find it more rewarding in terms of both money and personal fulfillment to trade off leisure for work.