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July 15th, 2007
03:57 pm
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Friends list vs. American public: ROUND 1, FIGHT!
Poll #1022009 Economics hypotheticals

Which job would you prefer?

My current job
18(34.6%)
The same job, but with a 10% pay cut and 10% more leisure time
25(48.1%)
The same job, but with a 10% raise and 10% less leisure time
9(17.3%)

All other things being equal, where would you rather live?

You have a 3,000-square-foot house and everyone else has a 2,000-square-foot house
6(11.8%)
You have a 4,000-square-foot house and everyone else has a 6,000-square-foot house
45(88.2%)


Once you're done, see how other Americans answer these questions. All I can conclude is that something is wrong with somebody, somewhere.

(Incidentally, the article's an insightful look at why the United States is the only -- only -- advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation. That alone makes it worth a full read.)

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From:elynne
Date:July 15th, 2007 11:35 pm (UTC)
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My answer to the first one is contingent on the fact that I make barely more than minimum wage, and usually work two (or less) days a week - so from that perspective, 10% pay increase for 10% work increase is a perfectly acceptable tradeoff. That, and my job rocks.

Answering the second is more problematic. I just don't give a damn about how much land or square footage everybody else has - I have a large family, I need a lot of room, and I'd like more room. It's not meant to impress anybody, I just want a library, art studio/office, and a yard big enough for dogs. :)
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From:heron61
Date:July 15th, 2007 11:41 pm (UTC)
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You have a 3,000-square-foot house and everyone else has a 2,000-square-foot house
vs.

You have a 4,000-square-foot house and everyone else has a 6,000-square-foot house

I'm not certain that I believe the studies that say most Americans prefer the first option, I'd want to see the methodology on the study. I suspect that a more true statement might be that business and advertising really wants us to believe this way and are doing their best to make people think that most people think this way. OTOH, if it is true, then values in this nation are screwed up beyond my worst fears.
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From:baxil
Date:July 16th, 2007 06:12 pm (UTC)
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I did a Google search to see if I could find some references, and most of the times the question is cited lead back to Robert H. Frank papers. (e.g. "Falling Behind" [PDF link: Google's HTML version], or "Are Positional Externalities Different From Other Externalities?" [PDF link: Google's HTML version].) He describes the hypothetical and says "In fact, however, most people say they would pick B, where their absolute house size is smaller and their relative house size is larger." -- but doesn't directly cite the source. If you're curious, I urge you to send him an e-mail via the link on his home page. (And you can even grab some mp3s put out by his son's band while you're there. :-))

Incidentally, though that paper doesn't directly address the absolute-vs.-relative-house-size question, the graph on happiness vs. wealth level in "Does Absolute Income Matter" is telling.
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From:dewhitton
Date:July 15th, 2007 11:55 pm (UTC)
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I'm not "other Americans," so I'll answer here.

Like Elynn I don't care about my house size vs everyone else's house size. I just want a house that is big enough for me. I do wonder about the size of some of the houses I see being built in Sydney.

Here in Aus we are guaranteed a minimum wage of AU$13.47/hour. Everyone pays a 1.5% tax to fund Medicare, which is free for anyone to use. You are free to take out private health insurance if you want. (I have some to cover glasses and ambulance, neither of which are covered by Medicare.) Everyone gets 4 weeks (ie 28 days) annual leave, or they get paid them in lieu.

But all this is being eroded due to new policies brought in by the conservative government. The bastards.
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From:baxil
Date:July 16th, 2007 05:28 pm (UTC)
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Does your country need chefs or system administrators? kadyg and I are available.
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From:pathia
Date:July 16th, 2007 12:00 am (UTC)
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I only work 20-30hours a week right now (Pending my new real job later *fingers crossed*) So my answer is slanted.
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From:hafoc
Date:July 16th, 2007 12:20 am (UTC)
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For now, because of retirement fund deductions and paying for toys I don't really need, I couldn't take the 10% cut option. But maybe in a year or two, I will. It's available to me.
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From:hafoc
Date:July 16th, 2007 12:23 am (UTC)
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and oh, by the way, I'd prefer the 1100 square feet of the house I have now. Heck, I'd prefer less than that, but the floor plan here is inefficient. I have to clean the blasted thing myself, you know.

1000 square feet of nice, quality living space would beat a 5000 square feet particleboard McMansion all to hell, as far as I'm concerned.
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From:baxil
Date:July 16th, 2007 05:28 pm (UTC)
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Yeah ... I'm a total packrat, and I have no idea what I'd do with 4,000 square feet, myself. Not to mention the outrageous heating costs ...

I wonder if that's skewing the results any (though, looking at the current overwhelming win, probably not). I took the question in what I think was its intended spirit, which is: "Would you rather be more comfortable but worse off than your neighbors, or less comfortable but comparatively better off?" The fact that Average People answer the latter more than the former strikes me as at least a little creepy.
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From:firestrike
Date:July 16th, 2007 12:29 am (UTC)
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Retaining your relative position also ensures that you don't send the wrong signals when a client comes over for dinner.

Huh? I've never done dinner with a client at any of my jobs. Heck, the only time I've had coworkers over is when we were already friends before we worked together.

People want to spend less time at work, but they also want to retain and improve their standard of living relative to their neighbors.

Neighbors? Why would I care? I know that I have neighbors (either that or poltergeists with terrible taste in music), but I don't know what they drive, what they wear, or what the inside of their apartment looks like. I envy the lifestyles of some of my friends, but this is expected. For the last three years I've been a college student, a career path linked to mooching slices of pizza and excessive ramen consumption, and I've been jealous of anyone who could go to McDonalds for lunch without having to budget for it.

My poll answers were based on my last paying job. I'd have preferred to spend 10% less time there, but then I couldn't have afforded the rent on my 1 bedroom apartment.

I seem to recall that the stats also show that a significant fraction of American workers take less vacation time than they earn each year, frequently with the excuse that they can't be away from work and out of the loop for an extended period. Personally, I've never had that problem with my place of employment, though it's been an issue with several of my other commitments.
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From:heron61
Date:July 16th, 2007 01:39 am (UTC)
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Neighbors? Why would I care? I know that I have neighbors (either that or poltergeists with terrible taste in music), but I don't know what they drive, what they wear, or what the inside of their apartment looks like.

That is precisely my feeling, and I also love your phrasing of (either that or poltergeists with terrible taste in music)
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From:dancinglights
Date:July 16th, 2007 01:17 am (UTC)
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I don't know what I'd do with a 4000-square-foot house. The house I'm currently living in is just barely over 2000 and there's too much space to furnish. Everyone else can have the 6000 if they want it :P


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From:xiphias
Date:July 16th, 2007 01:53 am (UTC)
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I'd have friends move in. Or I'd finally figure out what it would take to get my house licensed as a private club, and put in a bar/club.
(Deleted comment)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 16th, 2007 02:08 am (UTC)
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How much continuous maintenance will I have to do for that house of 280 square meters versus the one of 370 square meters? :-P

Semi-unrelatedly, when I'm feeling misanthropic I sometimes envision myself living in a small, small house in the middle of a square kilometer of land mines and motion-activated machine guns. "Trespassing Prohibited By Ordnance".

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From:firestrike
Date:July 16th, 2007 03:34 am (UTC)
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Put it underground, you get better insulation numbers. Dungeons Fortified Underground Defense Installations are power-efficient homes.
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From:lysana
Date:July 16th, 2007 04:13 am (UTC)
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Yeah, but I need the pay raise AND the leisure time. Hmph.
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From:necama
Date:July 16th, 2007 06:55 pm (UTC)
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You're a grad student too, eh? :P
From:lhexa
Date:July 16th, 2007 07:03 am (UTC)
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I hope I'm not the only one who thought, "10% up and 9.09% down would make more sense... or 11.11% up and 10% down." :P
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From:baxil
Date:July 16th, 2007 07:16 pm (UTC)
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Touché. :) I should know better, I'm a mathematician by training ...

I can't edit polls that have already received votes, but mentally correct it accordingly.
From:axonfuel
Date:July 16th, 2007 07:11 am (UTC)
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3,000 square foot. Rationale: I don't want to live in a McNeighborhood of annoying rich people.
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From:baxil
Date:July 17th, 2007 08:30 am (UTC)
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That was a consideration for me, but I took a slightly different thought-tack: In a world where the average home was 2,000 square feet, 3K means you're going to live in the larger homes with the annoying rich. If Average McAverageson lives in 6K, then a 4K house means the rich people only drive through your neighborhood with all the windows closed.
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From:zon14
Date:July 16th, 2007 10:38 am (UTC)
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Believe it or not, I think I actually work enough hours AND get enough pay, so I chose the first option on that one.

Also chose the first option specifically BECAUSE it would give ME a smaller house, neighbors be damned. My current one weighs in at around 1800, and there's still more than enough space. What the hell would I DO with 4000 square feet anyway? Open up a bed and breakfast? You could fit the entire population of some rural towns in central america in one of those monstrosities and they'd think it was the lap of luxury.

I just hope it's not 3000 sq feet of McMansion put together with spit, glue, and tissue paper.
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From:necama
Date:July 16th, 2007 03:26 pm (UTC)
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Amen to that.

What "everybody else" has should in no way influence what I want.
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From:murderoflawyers
Date:July 16th, 2007 12:53 pm (UTC)
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Heh. Looks like I'm the only person who has commented (or will, at this point in time) about the second question who's also been influenced from watching It Takes a Thief...

I chose the second option because of the following rationale I've seen during the show:
the smaller the house appears => less room to store stuff => less likely to be targeted by thieves
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From:baxil
Date:July 17th, 2007 08:30 am (UTC)
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Good point.
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From:paka
Date:July 16th, 2007 05:40 pm (UTC)
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I have some thoughts about working part time - basically I'd prefer it if I could get away with it, but don't feel I can do that here - but they might become a post later.

I'd prefer a smaller place as something easier to heat or cool as appropriate and with less wasted space. I'm pretty much an apartment dweller anyway. The nature of housing as an investment means that Americans don't quite have as much choice over the space use in any place they buy, and I suppose that fits with the work part - a bigger yard is more maintenance than a bigger inside, so if you're working a lot you may as well have more internal space anyways.

"Sicko," though... mmm. In this socio-political environment I worry that anything Moore might say will be dismissed perfunctorily. I feel that he could say "holding doors open for old people and guys on crutches is a good idea," and it'd immediately inspire people to ridicule the idea, and of course, the man's weight.
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