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Poor people have way more leisure time than rich people – and they’re happy, research finds

We’ve all heard horror stories of poor people working three or four minimum-wage jobs just to scrape by, but they may be outliers among their peers.

One in five men ages 21 to 30 without a college degree did not work at all in the past year, according to University of Chicago economist Erik Hurst.

And they “self-report higher satisfaction than this age group used to, even when its employment rate was 10 percentage points higher,” writes Derek Thompson in The Atlantic:

So, what are are these young, non-working men doing with their time? Three quarters of their additional leisure time is spent with video games, Hurst’s research has shown.

Big thinkers such as John Maynard Keynes predicted a world in which leisure would reign as work became increasingly automated, but someone forgot to tell rich people:

Elite men in the U.S. are the world’s chief workaholics. They work longer hours than poorer men in the U.S. and rich men in other advanced countries. In the last generation, they have reduced their leisure time by more than any other demographic. As the economist Robert Frank wrote, “building wealth to them is a creative process, and the closest thing they have to fun.”

Thompson lays out three theories to explain this: “attractive work for poor men” has declined while “cheap entertainment” became ubiquitous; affluent college graduates are socialized to “cultivate a conspicuous industriousness”; leisure and work now “leak” into each other’s domains on a daily basis, especially for journalists:

Because the scope of non-fiction journalism is boundless, every moment of my downtime could theoretically surface an idea or stray comment that becomes a story.

Read the story.

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