Friday, May 6, 2016

Mind Your Own Minimum Wage

I am upset when I weigh more than 140 pounds. This is because I am happiest when I weigh 135 pounds, and so my rising weight serves as an indicator that I'm getting unhappier every day. The fact that many other women weigh 125, 110, 250 or 375 pounds, or that the average American woman today weighs 164 pounds, has absolutely no bearing on me and my personal 140-pound limit. How could it?

So it was with some surprise that I read about a study done by two economists on how people feel about their income. They found that "people derive more happiness from pay when they know they're earning more than coworkers." In the 1998 study of 257 subjects by Sara Solnick and David Hemenway, half of those surveyed said they would "rather earn $50,000 a year when their coworkers were earning $25,000 than earn $100, 000 if their peers were earning $200,000." That's just nutty.

Years ago I quit a job as art director of a major daily newspaper because I was earning more money than almost anyone else on the staff. When I got hired I had been told to keep my salary a secret but it got out somehow (that bitch in payroll?) and pretty soon I was a pariah. That was out in California, and since I never got quite comfortable waiting for an earthquake or mudslide or forest fire or serial killer to ruin my day it didn't much matter. But once I was safely back home on the east coast, I never understood why anyone cared how much money I made or how it impacted them.

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