A study of 1.6 million people ties high incomes with more positive emotions and fewer negative ones, but only towards the self.
- A review of data from 1.6 million people shows that higher incomes relate to more positive feelings about the self.
- Feelings towards others were not affected by higher incomes.
- The findings have implications for those hoping to improve society by raising incomes alone.
It has often said that money cannot buy happiness, though it is also thought that the wealthy enjoy their miseries in relative comfort. While it is easy to measure the external benefits of increased wealth, the studies on how more money affects people at a personal level are limited and show mixed results. While many of them show that people think their lives are improved after becoming better off financially, attempts to find out if they are actually happier have provided few answers.
Looking to correct for that problem, an international team of researchers reviewed studies involving 1.6 million people and found that not only does income positively relate to some positive emotions, but that the effect is similar all over the world.
This study, led by Dr. Eddie Tong of the National University of Singapore, looked at data from 162 countries. Its findings, published in the journal Emotion, provide robust evidence for the effect of higher incomes on positive and negative emotions towards the self that mesh well with existing data on how changes in income make people feel about their lives overall.
Overall, the evidence shows that higher incomes are associated with more pride, confidence, and determination, and fewer instances of negative self-regarding emotions, such as sadness, fear, shame, and anxiety. Previous studies, which have tended to avoid asking about specific feelings, also found that increased income was positively correlated with overall life satisfaction by roughly the same amount.
This review also demonstrated that these effects are not just short-term ones. One study found that higher income levels predicted higher levels of self-regard 10 years after initial surveys.
The researchers determined that at least part of this effect was mediated by an increased sense of control over their lives that people felt as the earned more money. This is in line with previous studies, which have also tied a sense of control over life events to higher incomes, improved mental health, and happiness.
However, while this is good for how somebody might feel about themselves after a raise or about their life in general, the effects don't seem to apply to another crucial area of human life — how you feel towards others.
Perhaps there is a reason why Scrooge didn't start off caring about other people.
While people consistently reported increasingly positive self-regarding emotions as their incomes rose, their stances towards other people didn't change much.
Other-regarding emotions, which can refer to specific people, groups of people, or humankind in general, can include familiar feelings like gratitude, love, compassion, or anger. To the authors' surprise, the data they reviewed showed little to no relationship between increasing incomes and positive or negative other-regarding emotions. As Dr. Tong explained:
"Having more money doesn't necessarily make a person more compassionate and grateful, and greater wealth may not contribute to building a more caring and tolerant society."
While some of the studies reviewed suggested a positive relationship between income and positive other-regarding emotions, the mixed results mean that no association can be confirmed.
What are the implications of this?
Dr. Tong summarized the findings' implications for policymakers:
"Policies aimed at raising the income of the average person and boosting the economy may contribute to emotional well-being for individuals. However, it may not necessarily contribute to emotional experiences that are important for communal harmony."
On a more personal level, these findings remind us that money isn't everything but that it is something. Dr. Tong remarked:
"The effects of income on our emotional well-being should not be underestimated. Having more money can inspire confidence and determination while earning less is associated with gloom and anxiety."
The parts of the study focusing on self-control as a mediator also tied to other studies suggesting that autonomy is good for people.
A recent study on the matriarchal culture of the Mosuo people shows that the women living in villages where they weld power over their own lives are healthier than other Mosuo women living in patriarchal villages. While the study didn't suggest that no health issues existed in these societies, it did note improvements in comparison to others.
Like any other study, this one was not perfect, and there are reasons you should take these findings with a little salt.
This study was correlational and cannot prove causation. It could be the case that some unknown factor connects higher incomes with these positive emotions, for example. Further studies will be needed to demonstrate causation. Additionally, while the effect was noteworthy and consistent in countries on every continent and of all economic development levels, the effect was not massive. The findings do not suggest that higher income levels are a silver bullet effective against all negative self-regard.
Even with those caveats, this study's findings are an important improvement on the previous literature on this subject. While the connection between income and self-regard is limited, it is significant enough to suggest that millions of people's emotional states can be improved by focusing on their finances, even if that won't be enough to build a caring society for them to live in.
Of course, at that point, they might be well off and self-assured enough not to mind as much, but that's another problem.
The pandemic has given us an early glimpse at how truly disruptive the fourth industrial revolution may be, and the measures we'll need to support human dignity.
- The coronavirus crisis has acted as a catalyst for two powerful transformative forces: automation and universal basic income.
- These two intertwined forces will undoubtedly gain steam, writes Frederick Kuo, and the pandemic will hasten the acceptance of them from a scale of decades to years or mere months.
- This crisis has ushered in a glimpse of what a dystopian future could look like as a rapidly advancing fourth industrial revolution inevitably causes severe disruption in our economy and labor structure.
The coronavirus pandemic has sent the global economy into a tailspin posing a twisted choice to humankind between economic survival or our very health. Markets are crashing, numbers of infected people and deaths soaring by the day and a massive part of the global economy forced into a standstill as people shelter in place. Looking out the window, the world still looks the same. The sun is still shining, the leaves still rustle in the wind and birds still chirp merrily as if nothing was amiss. However there is no mistaking a collective sense of mourning that the world is feeling as normal daily routines and freedoms we took for granted have come to a sudden halt. Amidst the constant barrage of gloomy news however, this crisis shall inevitably pass. But the world post-COVID-19 will not be the same; the crisis has acted as a catalyst for powerful transformative forces such as automation and the need for universal basic income, two intertwined forces that will undoubtedly gain steam.
COVID-19 will expedite automation
As the mobility of human beings grinds to a halt due to public health directives and fears of infection, our need for food, resources and social connection has forced us to increasingly rely on technology to fill urgent gaps. In the United States, Amazon is seizing this opportunity to further entrench its domination, while in China, robots are being deployed to serve those in quarantine. In a world where fear of contact with other humans has become pervasive, businesses that can adapt quickly and significantly automate their supply lines and cut points of human contact stand to thrive in this new market.
Whereas before this crisis, the need for automation was mainly driven by the desire for increased profits and improved efficiency, the momentous shift in public consciousness today regarding simple human contact may make automation almost a necessity for many businesses to survive. When humans trust a robot to handle or deliver their food or goods more than they trust another human, or when crowded workplaces present public health hazards, jobs for humans will be unceremoniously eliminated. Given existing technologies, experts have estimated 36 million jobs may be vulnerable, ranging from trucking and delivery to food service and repetitive white collar jobs, the labor market may face a significant restructure driven by new technology and a radically altered market for those technologies. In a recent survey conducted by auditing firm Ernst & Young, more than half of company bosses throughout 45 countries had begun implementing existing plans to fast track automation.
This crisis has compacted the timeline of a gradual acceptance of an automated future from years into months.
The crisis of unemployment has become real for tens of millions locked down around the world. Although this phase is likely to be temporary with normality expected to return by the third quarter, the process of entrenching automation in our daily lives will be radically pushed forward. This crisis has compacted the timeline of a gradual acceptance of an automated future from years into months. In Seattle, Amazon has pioneered Amazon Go, a small grocery that relies on cameras and sensors to charge customers for what they buy instead of a checkout line. With Amazon already in control of a major grocery chain, Whole Foods, one could imagine that this little, fully automated store could serve as a template for a nationwide expansion of this technology, thus reducing the once-vital role of the cashier nearly overnight. Similar rollouts of automation models will likely follow in the coming years, affecting warehouse employees, delivery people, food service personnel and more.
Mainstream acceptance of UBI
In early 2019, Andrew Yang began gaining news coverage regarding the central theme of his presidential campaign: $1,000 a month in universal basic income (UBI) dispersed to every American. His primary argument for the necessity of this safety net rested on the belief that the coming age of automation was about to inundate vast scores of our current jobs with a shrinking percentage of elite tech corporations gobbling up more and more of the profit. When Yang first introduced his vision, it seemed to belong to a remote dystopian future with little relevance to the booming economy and low unemployment figures that was the reality until only weeks ago. On the right, he was lambasted as a communist seeking to turn American citizens into dependents to the state. On the left, his ideas were dismissed as other Democratic hopefuls touted the Green New Deal and job programs.
Fast forward to today and Andrew Yang's UBI theory has moved straight into the forefront. Trump, perhaps cognizant that the "Yang Gang" pulled a great deal of support from his own supporters, quickly recognized the popularity of his ideas and the need to provide supplemental income to Americans as shelter-in-place directives began to take hold throughout the country. The massive $2 trillion coronavirus emergency stimulus will provide every American earning $75,000 or less, regardless of current employment, a check of $1,200 per person and $500 per child for the duration of the crisis. There has been little debate over the necessity of this measure because it has proven to be widely popular to the public, regardless of political standing. It lifts some of the immediate and pressing need to work and helps take some of the edge off from isolating at home, thus contributing to a quicker resolution of this health crisis by sending fewer people out into the streets.
Although the pandemic and the stimulus check is temporary, this crisis has ushered in a glimpse of what a dystopian future would look like as a rapidly advancing fourth industrial revolution inevitably causes severe disruption in our economy and labor structure.
Although the stimulus package is a stopgap measure to deal with this crisis, its absolute necessity during this crisis has validated Yang's prophetic vision of a dystopian future where work no longer becomes possible for huge swathes of the American people. The reality is that the after effects of this crisis will be felt for at least months after the pandemic ends. There is little security for either the business owners or employees of food service businesses, bars, hair and nail salons and essentially any business that requires large crowds of people to gather and interact. To the initial detractors of UBI who argued that the program would breed laziness and a welfare state, the reality is that for most workers thrown into the sea of uncertainty, receiving a stimulus check will provide a small lifeline but will ultimately be of little solace to individuals who are accustomed to earning far more and who derive a sense of pride and satisfaction from their jobs. For most of those impacted by loss of employment, supplemental income in the form of a UBI helps take the edge off but it is ultimately no replacement for having a job or business.
Although the pandemic and the stimulus check is temporary, this crisis has ushered in a glimpse of what a dystopian future would look like as a rapidly advancing fourth industrial revolution inevitably causes severe disruption in our economy and labor structure. Automation and artificial intelligence are coming and will significantly alter the way we work, shop, eat and socialize. As society experiences the disruptive force of technology and draws on our collective experiences fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, UBI may become a permanent fixture of our political economy as well.
A.I. hasn't come for our jobs just yet, but it can figure out who is looking for a new one.
- A new study analyzes mountains of data to see which industries have the highest level of employee volatility.
- Volatility isn't always a bad thing, but it is always good to know about.
- Moving to new jobs within the same industry is often a route to higher wages.
Not precisely the AI-related employment shock you were thinking of.
The study, carried out by the Workforce Logiq company, uses data from "40,000 sources, 1 billion+ monthly interactions, and analytics on over 100 million candidates and 8 million organizations" in combination with A.I. analysis and a variety of models to determine how a variety of local and global factors contribute to employment stability or volatility.
The model gives every industry, company, and region included in the study a Talent Retention Risk (TRR) score. A higher the TRR, the higher the employee volatility. With it, upwards of 2000 sorts of data, including economic information, news about the industry and company, leadership changes, and other factors are accessed.
The findings, organized here into a chart, show which industries are more at risk for volatility and which are less so:
A score of less than 35 is low, between 25 and 49 is average, between 49 and 69 is above average, and above 70 is rather high. Industries with high scores see higher amounts of volatility in their workforce. They can expect to spend more time trying to find new talent and will have the most difficulty holding on to employees, which can be costly.
The authors point out that Mississippi has no Fortune 500 companies in it and as a result have little headhunting to drive up their score. On the other end of the spectrum, New York has a ton. While the authors conclude that higher scores relate to more opportunities overall, they also point out that the industries with the highest volatility, as seen above, tend are concentrated in the same areas.
Why are some industries dealing with much higher scores than others?
In some cases, these scores are the result of multiple industry-level issues. The mining industry has a very high score, the highest on the list, partly because of a decrease in demand for coal.
However, a high TRR score isn't always a sign that things are horrible for the industry or at a particular firm. It could also mean that the industry is in a situation where talented workers are willing and able to move around. As individuals, software engineers were found to be very open to new opportunities—a sign of how many opportunities for advancement there are for them.
The authors of the study also mentioned that some of the high scores are typical for an economy that is close to full employment, which is hardly a bad thing. Recruiters are the most willing to respond positively to an unsolicited message from another recruiter. In this economy, headhunters are all but required and the offers are getting better.
Not everyone is so ready for job switching, though. Workers in nursing, education, and public safety (industries with the lowest TRR scores) tend to be comfortable where they are. This is caused by a variety of factors, including the emotional elements of the job, the higher levels of interest in a good working environment for people in these sectors, and the often high level of investment that people in these fields put into their communities.
Why are people so open to recruiters reaching out or switching jobs on their own?
It is often easier to make more money by changing companies than to wait it out at your current job. According to research by Gartner, companies that are looking for new talent elsewhere can be willing to offer as much as a 15 percent increase in pay. At the same time, yearly raises tend to be limited to two or three percent for workers who stay put. This is a recognized trend and a common argument against non-competition clauses in contracts.
Artificial intelligence is making it possible to review and analyze much larger amounts of data than ever before. In this case, it provides a way to look at data from both local and global trends to determine what industries are at continued risk for high turnover and who stands to benefit from it.
Discover the peril and potential of an automated robotic world.
- Journalist Andrés Oppenheimer, columnist and member of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team explores the cutting edge of automation.
- From South Korean robot schools, Silicon valley futurist predictions and automated Japanese restaurants, this book shows us that the future of work is almost here.
- Already replacing a growing number of workers while also creating new roles, the concept of employment is becoming even more dynamic.
Alarmed and somewhat intrigued by a University of Oxford study that predicted 47 percent of jobs would be replaced by robots or intelligent computers, journalist Andrés Oppenheimer set out to discover what the future of work held for the potential casualties and benefactors of this new era.
Robotics and other assorted automated processes are already radically changing the nature of what we consider work and employment. Unlike past eras of paradigmatic technological shifts, where entire workforces were able to quickly recover and evolve into new burgeoning fields — the coming age of automation isn't going to be as seamless of a transition.
In The Robots Are Coming! The Future of Jobs in the Age of Automation, Oppenheimer casts a wide net of inquiry into a broad and multidisciplinary search for the future of what's to come. The result of years of tenacious research, experiences and thrilling conversations, this book leaves no tech stone unturned.
Without devolving into a buzzword jargon fest, Oppenheimer adequately sketches out and name drops nearly every technology experts and pundits alike think will usher in the new age.
Whether it's machine learning, A.I., augmented and virtual realities or the need for a universal basic income — this book name checks the aforementioned tech and then assaults it from all fronts. Is it hype? Where are we in terms of implementation? What do the experts say and what do the detractors think? How will this affect the job market and notions of employment?
The Robots Are Coming!
What're they coming for? Everything.
Timeframes, statistics, and opinion tended to oscillate depending on who the author was talking to at the time. There were many instances cited that went against all common fears of automation displacing jobs. For example, in 2016 Amazon increased their transport robots from 30,000 to 45,000. Speculators at the time figured this would result in the loss of jobs. On the contrary, more than 100,000 new jobs were added in the next 18 months.
In our present time these types of employment increases are relatively common. But they're also equally matched with a host of jobs in all industries being lost to automation. And they're not just confined to low-level labor and service jobs. They're affecting all levels of work.
Head up to the high towers of Wall Street and you'll even see financial professionals replaced by robo-analysts using big data. These aren't displacing the lowest of the workforce, but knocking out big-time financial advisors that use to make an average of $350,000 to $500,000 a year.
Even duties in professions such as journalism and law aren't safe from being deferred to automation. Andrês remarked that in just the past few years the stunning speed of automated transcription services completely changed the way he conducted interviews. The book's interviews themselves were transcribed and largely translated by A.I. methods.
A growing force of bots are also writing a rising number of articles due to a technology called Heliograf. What would have taken hundreds of journalists covering local elections, was done with just one templating bot. In 2016 the Washington Post was able to cover over 500 local elections with this technology.
If one thing is perfectly clear, it's that automation and intelligent computers are leaving nothing behind and popping up in the least expected places. Understandably, this has got a lot of people worried.
Anders Sandberg from Oxford comically, but nonetheless genuinely, put it this way:
It's quite simple: if your job can be easily explained it can be automated, if it can't it wont.
The future of work is going to require a massive shift in skills, mindset and know-how. Soft skills, being able to work with a steady flow of interactive data and ability to make actionable insights from the data-driven world are just some of the traits of a future workforce.
For those that aren't going to make the cut, they'll need to shift their mindset on the psychological and cultural notion of work and employment in the first place. The many futurists, serious economists, and, at times, the author himself truly believe that a universal basic income needs to be implemented.
A new mindset for the future
In an interview with philosopher Nick Bostrom, there was a discussion about the importance and self-worth that so many people receive from their employment. This he believes is a new phenomenon and one of the major problems we'll have to face socially.
Bostrom mentions that at one point, the aristocratic classes of old were able to live worthy lives by engaging in pleasurable and fulfilling experiences. It's inferred from his conversation that something like this will need to take place in the mindset of a larger sect of the population. With the prospect of an entire futuristic world not needed for work, we seriously need to reconsider the human enterprise and the notions of self-worth tied to employment.
All futurist utopian ideals aside, the nature of schooling, vocational work and employment seem to be following an age-old trend – omnipotent progress always rears its head and usurps the status quo. Work will change with the times in absurdly unique ways in which even this book and any one else alive today will not be able to predict.
Oppenheimer mentions how jobs like iPhone developer, Cloud data analyst and so on emerged from our most recent inventions and innovations. Less than two decades ago these words would have been gibberish to anyone hearing them. The same will hold true for the jobs in the next few decades.
There are a number of things that no foreseeable robotic intelligence will ever be able to compete with. Forget fantasy notions of singularities and eschatological coming of days through superintelligence – these things are a different thing to worry about entirely. The reality of the situation is that new jobs are coming and a whole lot of jobs we've had for years are never going to return.
Dealing with the inability to reskill a large amount of the populace will be a major problem in the coming years.
The author sees himself as both techno optimist in the long-run, but a techno-pessimist in the short term.
If there's one final takeaway from this book it's that the threat or rather promise of automation is real and an inevitability. There's no use fighting against it. The only thing we can do is evolve alongside it.
The Job Guarantee is a policy proposal that would have the state function as an employer of last resort.
Here at Big Think we like to talk about the basic income guarantee. While the basic income is an interesting idea, objections to it abound. Also, it isn’t the only idea for ending poverty making the rounds. While the basic income gets a lot of press, there's another idea: the Job Guarantee.
What is it?
The Job Guarantee is a policy proposal that would have the state function as an employer of last resort; always having public works projects in action to assure that any person looking for work is going to be able to find a job. That job might not be glamorous or conveniently located, but it will exist.
Such a plan would not end unemployment outright, but would rather assure that the rate is always near a low target. While most proposals set the target unemployment rate near three percent, that rate has been as high as six percent in others. It is based not only on economic questions, but also on the pragmatic question of how many people would take the work offered.
Is this a new idea?
No, the idea was formalized by Bill Mitchel and Joan Muysken decades ago. However, the principle goes back to the New Deal in the United States when agencies like the Civilian Conservation Corps and WPA offered work to the unemployed when the market failed to provide it. In the United Kingdom it goes back to the work of William Beveridge, notably the book Total Employment in a Free Society, which reached the conclusion that the state could assure total employment by a variety of means consistent with a liberal, capitalist, society.
Has it been tried?
In the United States, the bill known as Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act states the Federal Government can institute this policy- but no action has ever been taken along these lines despite unemployment often being above the bill’s suggested level of three percent.
Currently, India has the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which aims to provide work in impoverished areas. While criticism the projects has been made, independent studies show it does have a positive effect on the people and areas it serves. It is, however, less comprehensive than many theorists would have liked. Though it does employ many people and provide needed infrastructure work in isolated areas.
What are the upsides?
The benefits of attempts at job guarantees have included reduced poverty and the ills associated with unemployment, including issues with health, family problems, drug use, and high crime rates. Supporters also argue that it can lead to stability of both prices and economic growth by assuring the unemployment rate never spikes.
Well, this sounds pretty good, what are the downsides?
There are a few, one objection of course is that such a policy calls for major government intervention in the economy; an idea opposed by many people for various reasons. The project could also cause inflation if not managed properly. The risk of politicians using assured employment to create a pool of loyal voters has also been a hurdle to the creation of new projects.
There is also a practical problem to consider. While it may be possible to assure that there are more open job positions than unemployed workers at any time, it may prove impossible for that work to be useful, attractive, and accessible. While there will be a demand for people to pave roads in Northern Alaska at some point, it will prove difficult to get people to move there to do it at a low cost. At the same time, you could employ everyone digging and filling in holes, but would have a hard time selling it to voters as being useful.
How we are going to organize the economy is always a pressing question. With the pressures of automation and globalization becoming stronger all the time, the question takes on new dimensions. Will the right to have a job be the next freedom enjoyed by people all over the world? Or will the idea end up as a trivial notion in a history of economics class?