Yet the outcomes are decidedly different.
Rich American men, by comparison, are the workaholics of the world. They put in significantly longer hours than both fully employed middle-class Americans and rich men in other countries. Between 1985 and 2010, the weekly leisure time of college-educated men fell by 2.5 hours, more than any other demographic. “Building wealth to them is a creative process, and the closest thing they have to fun,” the economist Robert Frank wrote. Internationally, there is a positive relationship between income and happiness, but the behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman has found that the plutocratic dreams of young educated men, like the ones in the NYU study, are immiserating fantasies:
The broader point is a structural critique, yes. While women who hold the same elite status as men are still paid less because of discrimination, they’re also less likely to chose professions that demand almost psychotic levels of working hours in the first place. A few studies have also found a gender gap in choices between jobs with flexible scheduling and those without, leaving women with smaller paychecks and sometimes happier opinions towards the workplace—because they spend less time there. There are some other good nuggets in the piece.
But this ‘graph alone is worth savoring for the idea that, for rich American men, wealth-building is the “creative process” that acts as some sort of stand-in for life affirmation. More, that the hunt for plutocratic success is essentially an “immiserating fantasy.” It might be that elite men are the ones who take DWYL-LWYD seriously enough to appropriate its pursuit into the workplace.
Of course it would be a mistake to believe that only elite men find working an altogether immiserating vision quest. Being on the losing end of a power relationship is no fun either. This modern inquiry is universal, even if the impacts are distinctly disparate—whether by a seemingly ill-advised death wish working for astounding wealth or through the tragic ending of sleeping in your car in-between low-wage shifts and being uninsured selling vacuums door-to-door. All the while we have these different fantasies in mind. If elite men hoard wealth as a pseudo-spiritual release the rest of us see money as literal lifeblood. It’s not those numbers we’re after but food, shelter, and access to medical care. For what it’s worth I say we should ease their burden and ours. Let’s all work less and live a little more.