Who wants to be a (stressed-out) millionaire? Um. Me?
A young revolutionary tells Tevye, "Money is the world's curse." Tevye, the poor, beleaguered milk man, pushes him aside and, raising his finger to the sky, announces, "May God strike me down! And may I never recover!!"
That's sort of the feeling I get when I read items like this. Dalton Conley, a professor of sociology at NY University who had studied race and class extensively, wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times over the weekend claiming that it's the rich who are more stressed out these days.
He wrote: [I]t is now the rich who are the most stressed out and the most likely to be working the most. Perhaps for the first time since we've kept track of such things, higher-income folks work more hours than lower-wage earners do.
Working more? I'm sure since the advent of the internet and the Blackberry folks in higher-paying, more professional jobs feel like they're working more. And I certainly know many well-off types who are rather work-a-holic in their tendencies.
But I don't know how more hours translates into more stress. The high-income folks I know generally enjoy their careers. Doctors, lawyers, advertising execs all have stressful jobs, yes, but they're also employing their skills and education in ways that presumably enthuse them. And then there's that nice paycheck to compensate for all those hours. Maybe the stress they feel is more lifestyle related. "I'd like to spend more time with the kids, but I'm so busy at work."
The stress a lower-income worker feels is more about survival. "If I lose this gig my kids won't have a place to live." That's an altogether different kind of stress.
I also have to wonder if the professors conducting these studies have forgotten what it's like to be a clock-punching wage slave; terrified that traffic will make you late, or the kids will be sick, or just being terrified of an abusive boss. Do they remember those first few jobs, the low-skilled, low-income ones they took before education and experience pushed them up the employment ladder? Have they really studied the stress level of adult minimum wage workers, many of whom work more than one job simply to make their rent payment? Did they measure the stress of manual laborers, who literally slave all day and make very little money to show for it?
I don't consider myself to be low-income, and yes, I do work long hours while juggling kids and homelife by myself. But I have the benefit of knowing I can earn a living plying my trade. I enjoy a certain amount of self-determination and flexibility low-income workers in drudge jobs can only wish for. That right there eliminates a whole lot of stress.
And while we're examining who's more stressed out, we have to ask ourselves what constitutes rich. If they mean that Paris Hilton is more stressed managing her party schedule than the corporate lawyer I know making $250K a year but working 100-hour weeks, again I have to respectfully disagree.
I think the readers of the New York Times, by definition a well-educated, professional lot, might like to think they're more stressed than the struggling working classes. But then they need to walk a mile in their file clerks' shoes before they pat themselves on the back.