Wealthy Americans spend less time socializing (report)
Despite the assumption that America’s most affluent keep a full calendar of philanthropic luncheons, formal galas, and house parties in Newport, new research, out this month from Emory University and the University of Minnesota, shows that people with higher incomes are actually less social.
The study looked at data from both the General Social Survey and the American Time Use Survey, and found that the wealthy (categorized as having incomes upwards of roughly $125,000 annually) spent 6.4 fewer evenings per year in social situations than their low-income counterparts (those who earned about $40,000 per year).
“We know that generally income or at least access to money in an experimental context is associated with less time or less interest in others,” study co-author Emily Bianchi told The Atlantic. “So, on the one hand, we thought that income would negatively predict time spent with friends. On the other hand, it’s a luxury. You can choose your friends—you can’t choose your family. Neighbors are somewhere in between. But certainly, friendships are our most voluntary type of social tie.”
Additionally, the affluent can pay for services for which lower-income people use their social networks, like child care, home maintenance, or even simply a ride to the airport. “Now we can kind of, through money, pay for things that we used to rely on other people for,” Bianchi explained to Josh Rosenblat at Vox. “As we become more affluent as a nation—as we have, and certainly not equally by any stretch—we do tend to pay for some of these things that we used to give and receive support on.”
And while the study doesn’t prove causation, only a link between wealth and the amount of time spent socializing, Bianchi also suggests that an increasingly insulated upper class could impact politics. “Wealthier people may be less civically engaged with their neighborhood communities and more civically engaged with self-selected communities such as private schools or political organizations.”