Wages have become far less important than the intangible benefits of a job.


Three-quarters of productive adults go to work. After all, most of us have to be paid. But how much we get paid isn’t the only factor that determines a good job.

The friendships we form and the physical environment in which we work are also important. to focus group We’ve been running it across the country in recent months, and people have been talking about how much they value different jobs—ones that give you the flexibility to work with your own life.

All these other aspects of labor can be difficult to measure, so economists often stick to wages when comparing jobs when measuring inequality, for example. Luckily, not all researchers are that lazy. new work The London School of Economics uses workers’ self-rated life satisfaction to estimate the non-monetary rewards of various occupations.

While some economists believe that higher salaries are a form of reward for an unpleasant job (think of working long hours in a bank), researchers have found that non-monetary rewards are generally positively correlated with earnings. In a notable exception – some low-wage agricultural labor plays other low-wage roles in well-being). So, higher salaries are usually not a reward for an unpleasant job, but part of the package that comes with a pleasant job.

Combining occupational wages and non-monetary compensation increases inequality between jobs significantly (the volatility increases by a third!) rather than simply looking at the wage gap. Gender and ethnic differences are also widening. Importantly, not only does a degree earn a higher salary, but it also leads to a higher return on education as it leads to a more enjoyable job. Lesson? There is more work and inequality than salary.

Torsten Bell is the CEO of the Resolution Foundation. Read more at resolutionfoundation.org

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