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Are there studies that connect being poor with laziness or others of that kind?

  1. Jul 3, 2011 #1
    Many right-wing people believe most poor people are poor because they're lazy, and most rich people worked for it and deserve being rich. Are there any studies about this?

    I searched on google but I only found information like Glenn Beck's opinion on this (lol) and other useless information.
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  3. Jul 3, 2011 #2


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    How do you systematically define "lazy" for one to make a study?

    The only thing that I can recall that is remotely of interest to you is a study done a couple years ago showing that, these days, a majority of millionaires/billionaires did not inherit their money. Even then, define "deserve"?
  4. Jul 3, 2011 #3
    The problem, as stated, is defining "laziness".

    Do we use labor contribution? Then the top 20% does approximately 6 times as much work as the bottom 20%.

    Do we use productivity? Then the top 20% are approximately 9 times as productive as the bottom 20%.

    None of this, of course, means that population work ethic can be appropriately measured by income quintile. I imagine there are systemic demographic differences between the quintiles which explain most of the disparity in output. Indeed, trying to define and measure "lazyness" as a variable of interest seems like a particularly pointless exercise. You might want to try writing your questions more professionally, by dropping the references to "right wing" and "laziness".
  5. Jul 4, 2011 #4
    When I posted my question I was aware laziness can't be measured, but I'm not making a study here, I'm just asking a question. I don't know how to define laziness, deserve, etc, so it can be measured and used in a statistical study. If I did I'd have wrote it instead. I was expecting someone could point me to studies of this kind.

    But I guess the word I was looking for was "work ethic", that talk2glenn wrote in his post. So, are there any studies that relate poor/rich people with work ethic?
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2011
  6. Jul 4, 2011 #5


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    If you don't know how to define it, how do you expect other people to be able to define it? Maybe the words are too subjective for anyone to have attempted to make a study of it. Even work ethic is vague. How does one measure work ethic? By how many hours one works? Does being on welfare automatically count as no work ethic? What about work outside of the hours the employer pays you for? Then, of course, just because you have a high income doesn't mean you're rich considering how many people have high incomes who are in massive debt for various reasons.

    You'll find it tough to find scientific studies supporting or refuting such vague political nonsense like 'right wingers think X quality about Y group of people'.
  7. Jul 4, 2011 #6
    Well I expect people who study these subjects to be able to define it, whether I can define it or not :confused:

    I had a hunch it wouldn't be easy to find studies of this kind, because it's very difficult to separate correlations and causes in this matter. 'right wingers think X quality about Y group of people' - that really is a political nonsense, but that's not what I asked :tongue:
  8. Jul 4, 2011 #7


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    I've been trying to find any such papers using the Web of Knowledge database of peer-reviewed literature. I've been using search terms like "Productivity", "Wage", "Performance", "Salary", "Hard-Work" etc all in various combinations. What comes across is that the topic is too vague, there have been many specific studies along the lines of "a comprehensive analysis of wage disparity across ethnicity/sex/age self-employment in industry X" but nothing exactly fitting your bill. Perhaps you will have better luck.

    Part of the problem is that nobody adequately defines what they are talking about when they say this. "Working hard" doesn't really mean much, when I was at university I worked throughout the summer at a campsite. I worked damn hard averaging 10 hour days often spiking to 14 hours (often with no breaks, lunch was taken whilst working), sometimes I did this for over two weeks without a day off. My pay was not good for how much I worked. At the time a friend of mine was on a summer work placement with a pharmaceutical company, they worked 40 hour weeks (a lot of which was spent browsing the internet waiting for something to do), frequently enjoyed 2 hour lunch breaks and got paid far more.

    This isn't an unusual set up, wage isn't determined by man hours it's determined by how much money the employer can get away with paying which is related to how much money they have (in turn related to how well the company and industry are doing) and how much the employee is looking for (relating to how desperate they are for money and how many other options they have). Consequently the idea that working hard results in more money only works in an ideal system with few variables.

    It get's harder when people argue "well X may work less hours than Y but X's work means more". But then that's shifting the goal posts isn't it? If you work 30 hour weeks as a city exec and rake in a million a month you, as an individual, could be working far less than a nurse working 60 hour weeks.

    The truth is there is no easy path to wealth, however on average it is probably sensible to say that there are lists of attributes that if one has one will be more likely to get rich e.g. dedication, long-hours, aptitude etc, but there is also a list of circumstances that will facilitate this process that are outside of ones control e.g. luck-of-the-market, health problems, social problems etc.
  9. Aug 2, 2011 #8
    Well i believe that there are those who had jobs and lost them due to the off shoring of jobs, and i would not consider them lazy. And then there are those who sit around waiting for their welfare check. Me? i believe that the latter one is the less predominate and that many poor people would work if they could
  10. Aug 2, 2011 #9


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    are you talking about relatively poor people in a rich country like the US, or poor people in a poor country like India?

    Poverty, of course, is the natural state of the majority of humankind so perhaps it is more productive to ask why there exists substantial numbers of people who are not poor
  11. Aug 2, 2011 #10


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    While I don't like the characterizations of the OP, I believe useful answers lie in studies of the effects of actual legislation/programs. For example, the failure of Clinton's welfare reform to raise poverty levels as liberals predicted indicates that overall, people dropped from welfare due to the reforms did not require welfare to stay above the poverty line.

    Ultimately, I don't find it useful to even consider the propaganda characterizations. It doesn't matter if people who are poor are lazy - what matters is that people kicked off the welfare rolls successfully fended for themselves and didn't drop below the poverty line.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2011
  12. Aug 2, 2011 #11
    I've often wondered if there are links between mitochondrial effectiveness (defined to be how well ATP is produced, or perhaps surface area of mitochondrial folds of an individual) and success in society. I've always found "lazy" a vague term too, and I've often felt that every individual has a different level of energy, perhaps because of how well their mitochondria works (perhaps the mitochondria in some of their cells work better than other cells, so maybe an average mitochondrial effectiveness in a particular individual.)

    That I think would be a good question.

    Edit** maybe I'll ask about this in the biology subforum someday.. (I don't know what is already known about mitochondrial variations or if there's even any at all, I've just thought about it from the couch (lol))
  13. Aug 2, 2011 #12
    I don't think the difference between poor and rich can be measured by laziness. I see many people who are paid less than me working harder and doing jobs I am too lazy to do. The difference, I think is drive, along with a number of factors, some of which we have no control over.
  14. Aug 2, 2011 #13


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    Do you actually have any peer reviewed scientific research to back any of this up? Please do not bring up a scientific explanation unless there is actually scientific backing.
  15. Aug 2, 2011 #14
    heh, no I don't unfortunately (what I said has no basis as far as I'm aware of but that's what makes it exciting to me). Since I took biology as an elective in college I had always thought about this possible link between laziness in humans and the energy producers of their cells. I sort of thought I remember a professor saying that energy production was proportional to the surface are of the inner-membrane of the mitochondria, but I'm almost certain I'm just imagining it. Though it just seems likely to me. It's certainly not an a priori observation, I was going to study it and ask more questions along these lines if I was still a biology major but I switched to physics fairly early on in college.

    Could have been an original Ph.D thesis :D But no..
  16. Aug 2, 2011 #15


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    Fair enough.
  17. Aug 3, 2011 #16


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    There are many http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_disease" [Broken] with a wide variety of symptoms, none of which relate to laziness beyond the possibility of chronic fatigue.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  18. Aug 4, 2011 #17
    It's really motivation, not laziness, that's important. For example, how much one values a certain item an determine how much work one is willing to put into action.

    For example, If I did a study stating that "Laziness is the unwillingness to do certain acts". However, did the person not do the act because he or she had no incentive, or not a strong another incentive. It also would depend what the 'act' is, since some people are more resistant to some acts then others.

    In other words, its like porn, you can't accurately define it but you know it when you see it.
  19. Aug 5, 2011 #18
    This was forwarded to me (facebook friend) by a 30 something divorced mother of 3 that works as a tele-agent in a Medicare enrollment center. She has (reluctantly) participated in several state and federal programs but works very hard to provide more for her family. Last year she worked hard and broke the grip of poverty with income in excess of $35,000. She didn't want to rely on unemployment, food stamps or medicaid - but had few other choices as an unemployed single mother (in Canton, OH). Please keep her situation in mind as you read her post.

    "‎5000 Years Ago, Moses Said To Israel, "Pick Up Your Shovels,Mount Your Asses And Camels, And I Will Lead You To The Promised Land."

    When Welfare Was Introduced, Roosevelt Said, "Lay Down Your Shovels, Sit On Your Asses, And Light Up A Camel, This Is The Promised Land."

    Today The Government Has Stolen Your Shovel, Taxed Your Asses, Raised The Price Of Camels And Mortgaged The Promised Land To China."

    My conclusion is this - she is not lazy and chose to work hard to escape poverty. If she was lazy - the Government support would have enveloped her like a glove.

    Her conclusion (apparently) is the Government needs to get out of the way and people need to get off their arses.
  20. Aug 5, 2011 #19


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    On the subject of welfare I really don't think there's anyone that would disagree with this yet it is constantly put around as though the vast majority of people especially politicians do disagree with it (that's my impression from the UK at least). The problem isn't welfare it's how good the regulatory system is to ensure that welfare works properly and people aren't cheating the system. I mean there are good reasons to have welfare e.g. for the sick, widowed, unemployed due to high unemployment rates, to encourage higher education etc. The problem is that you get situations where the follow up on people isn't good enough (all they have to do is get it signed off that they went to X interviews a month, not that they made an effort) and hard to solve situations where people are offered a job but choose to stay on benefits because the pay is less than their welfare and the job has zero prospects.

    It is no trivial task to solve. I think the best way of tackling welfare issues is to increase welfare funding so that the bureaucracy can be done properly and ultimately welfare is used in the way that is intended and thus money is saved.

    But considering the abundance of opinions and lack of studies I feel that this is getting far from what the OP intended.
  21. Aug 5, 2011 #20
    That's clearly a big problem. I think this discussion should be framed with a backdrop of the reality of long term unemployment.


    "The unemployment rate hit 10 percent in October, and there are good reasons to believe that by 2011, 2012, even 2014, it will have declined only a little. Late last year, the average duration of unemployment surpassed six months, the first time that has happened since 1948, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking that number. As of this writing, for every open job in the U.S., six people are actively looking for work.

    All of these figures understate the magnitude of the jobs crisis. The broadest measure of unemployment and underemployment (which includes people who want to work but have stopped actively searching for a job, along with those who want full-time jobs but can find only part-time work) reached 17.4 percent in October, which appears to be the highest figure since the 1930s. And for large swaths of society—young adults, men, minorities—that figure was much higher (among teenagers, for instance, even the narrowest measure of unemployment stood at roughly 27 percent). One recent survey showed that 44 percent of families had experienced a job loss, a reduction in hours, or a pay cut in the past year.

    There is unemployment, a brief and relatively routine transitional state that results from the rise and fall of companies in any economy, and there is unemployment—chronic, all-consuming. The former is a necessary lubricant in any engine of economic growth. The latter is a pestilence that slowly eats away at people, families, and, if it spreads widely enough, the fabric of society. Indeed, history suggests that it is perhaps society’s most noxious ill. "

    my bold

    When a middle class working wage is lost and replaced by unemployment, food stamps, and medicaid - it is a difficult transition. As the months of searching for full time employment tick by - the reality of accepting work at a lower wage (minimum to $10 to $15 per hour perhaps) become the reality as unemployment benefits reach their end. Now, at the same time, the unemployed person must make sure they don't jeopardize their family's guaranteed benefits by earning too much working part time - some may elect to work for cash and not report earnings, some will choose not to break the law, and some will choose to relax and do nothing.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2011
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