Stefan Molyneux: Do the Rich Work Harder?

From Stefan Molyneux, Do the Rich Work Harder?

Each week, 44% of the wealthy worked 11 hours more than the poor.

For those with full-time jobs:
86% of the wealthy worked 50 hours or more each week
57% of the poor who had full-time jobs worked less than 50 hours each week.


88% of the wealthy took fewer sick days.


79% of the wealthy also networked 5 or more hours each month.


55% of this networking was done over their lunch hour.


65% of the wealthy had 3 sources of income.


45% had 4 sources of income.


6% of the poor had more than one source of income.


67% of the wealthy watched less than an hour of TV a day,


77% of the poor watched more than an hour of TV a day.


63% of the wealthy spent less than an hour a day on the Internet.


74% of the poor spent more than an hour a day on the Internet.

I suspect some on the ‘right’ are tired of the deification of the rich/wealthy. Yes, maybe rich people on average work harder than the poor and middle-class, but there is more than meets the eye here.

There’s probably a non-linear relationship at play here. It’s not like an athlete or a businessman who makes tens of millions of dollars is working 100x longer and harder than someone who makes minimum wage. A top MMA fighter or boxer who makes $10 million is not working 10,000x harder than a mid-card fighter who makes only $1,000. Factors such as luck, ingenuity, and IQ also are important, as Stephan acknowledges. Working smart and hard is obviously better than working just hard. Someone working 5 hours a day at McDonald’s isn’t suddenly going to become rich by doubling his hours. Perhaps if he saves diligently and gets promotions, he can maybe accumulate a small retirement, but this is far from being wealthy.

I’m trying to look at this from the perspective of a behavioral economist. Stefan is possibly confusing correlation with causation, meaning it’s not that more work leads to more wealth but that high-paying, prestigious jobs create an incentive to do more work. A low-paying job such as working at McDonald’s or Walmart is a lot of work relative to the pay …there is a lot of standing on one’s feet, dealing with annoying customers, boring repetitious tasks, annoying bosses and managers, etc. Someone who does such a job probably wants to do the bare minimum to cover living expenses, and no more. In choosing between putting in another four hours/day of work at a crappy, low-paying job versus playing four more hours of video games, the latter may win out. The marginal utility from the four additional hours of low pay is less than the utility from playing four more hours of video games.

Now imagine that same worker were offered a comfortable office job that pays $50/hour to move shuffle some papers around and punch some numbers into a computer, which not only pays much more than working at Walmart, but has more amenities and better working conditions. The worker may derive more utility from forgoing the four hours of video games for higher pay, higher social status, and nicer working conditions. A lawyer or executive may put in more hours in the hope of a promotion or having a enough money to buy a nice home, but playing video games or golf would be counterproductive to such a goal.