Added: Taylor Trogdon - Date: 17.12.2021 08:25 - Views: 10478 - Clicks: 9142
Americans love to talk about how Americans hate to talk about money. These seem to point to a society-wide gag rule that discourages the discussion of financial details. But there are caveats. The companies that tend to publish findings like these stand to gain from persuading people to talk more about their money, if not with their loved ones, then with a professional financial adviser.
Many Americans do have trouble talking about money—but not all of them, not in all situations, and not for the same reasons. Money taboos are absent, or much weaker, in many countries and cultures outside the U. Because I think that is taboo. But I also think we are kind of constantly talking about money. In fact, money taboos vary a lot based on class.
Read: Rich people rarely tell their kids how much money they make. Among middle-class Americans, the ban on talking about money is instead often brought on by financial precarity. She told me that to the families she spoke with, being middle class meant not being financially reliant on family, friends, or the government. In working-class communities, meanwhile, the money taboo can be weaker. The idea is that the have-nots fight to claim some resources for themselves while the haves fight to defend what they own, whether violently or more subtly.
Thus, taboos around money—among haves and have-nots alike—exert a sort of stabilizing force, blurring how much people actually have and giving them one fewer reason to be upset with their place in society. Read: Who actually feels satisfied about money? Other researchers I consulted had different, but no less compelling, theories as to why direct discussions of money can produce social tension in any society. But if the time horizon of that small purchase were extended—if that friend were trying to save aggressively to buy a house in five years, and wanted to avoid expensive lunches—the money spent would become more loaded with meaning, and possibly shame.
The time-related taboos that Jones described have likely been around for a while, but the particular taboos around talking about money in present-day America are probably about a century and a half old, according to Eli Cook, a history professor at the University of Haifa and the author of The Pricing of Progress: Economic Indicators and the Capitalization of American Life. Before this period of industrialization, Cook said, workers had less of an expectation that their pay would reflect their talents and abilities, because they were well aware of the leverage their employers had in setting wages; but in the 20th century, as those economic ideas took hold, wages became something that workers might deduce their own worth from.
But even though wage labor is common throughout the rest of the world, it does not necessarily produce taboos like the ones in the U. Cook told me that in Israel, some people openly discuss salary information. They do this with everything—why not salaries? Read: Ask your male colleagues what they earn. Other societies provide examples of how financial value need not be equated with personal value. When conditions like those in Israel and China are introduced into certain segments of American society, money taboos can dissolve. The outcome is similar for public workers, whose pay is often standardized, and determined by clearly defined criteria.
Money also becomes more openly discussed under particular household circumstances, as Viviana Zelizer, a sociologist at Princeton, pointed out to me. She cited Vietnam as an example of one such society where people tend to talk more directly about money. It also has to do with the fact that some people depend on remittances from relatives abroad, so discussions of financial specifics naturally feature in family life.
Read: How money became the measure of everything. Other countries might have high levels of inequality too, she noted, but perhaps weaker democratic ideals and less faith in meritocracy. But worldwide, a sensitivity to money, and to the ificance of having a lot of it, is on some level inescapable—monitoring and modulating the financial als one sends seem to be nearly universal impulses. Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue, a development-sociology professor at Cornell University, told me that when income or wealth is invoked as a status symbol, it can spark a competition with others that will be unpleasant for all involved.
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