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Do the rich work harder?

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Posted: 6 am ET

America has always been viewed as the land of opportunity, where hard work can result in financial success. While a new survey by Pew Research Center reveals that 60 percent of Americans still believe in that, the same percentage says the economic system is unfairly set up to favor the rich.

Click on the image to see average household incomes in 2012.

Click on the image to see average household incomes in 2012.

Only 38 percent of respondents believe being rich is the result of working harder than others, and half say people are poor because of circumstances beyond their control.

In addition, the growing gap between rich and poor, a topic recently debated and discussed by President Obama, Pope Francis and delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, is not unnoticed by most Americans.

Nearly two-thirds, or 65 percent, of respondents believe the gap between the rich and everyone else has widened over the past 10 years. Bankrate examined data and found that, in fact, the income gap has been growing over the past 20 years. Read Bankrate's analysis of the widening income gap in the U.S.

How to reduce the income gap?

Overall, 54 percent of survey respondents say that the most effective way to reduce the income gap is to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations and spend the money on programs for the poor. Thirty-five percent of respondents say lowering taxes on the wealthy is a more effective approach because it will encourage economic growth and investment.

The survey highlights the fact that while both Republicans and Democrats share the opinion that the income gap is growing, the difference between the two political parties is in how they believe it should be handled. Among Democrats, 90 percent think the government should do "a lot" or "some" to reduce the gap, while only 45 percent of Republicans think that.

The two parties also differ on the effect of government assistance on recipients. Among Democrats, 66 percent think poor people need government assistance in order to meet their basic needs so they can climb out of poverty. On the flip side, 65 percent of Republicans believe assistance programs result in recipients being too dependent on government aid.

Another hot political potato in the income gap discussions has been the debate over the minimum wage. As part of his plan to reduce income disparities, President Obama has championed an increase in the federal minimum wage. The survey shows most Americans agree with him, with 73 percent in favor of an increase from the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour.

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May 08, 2014 at 1:18 pm

But John, ($15.76 good job, $7.25 bust my a$$ job). At 15.76 you weren't rich, perhaps even just only a bit more comfortable. Additionally, you probably put in your chits to earn that 15.76 ie. got an education or worked your way up a ladder with training and hard work/experience. I think some CEO salaries are way out of line, ie, they make more in 5 minutes than I do in a year. However, they also often keep afloat and in profitability companies that have 100s of thousands of people. There is tremendous risk involved there. I often feel like not much more than a talking monkey when I consider how some of these CEO's run large multinational organizations into high profitability.

February 05, 2014 at 5:06 am

Paul wrote that "The money wasn't there for me to attend college after High School and I worked for many years in manufacturing." Chances are, either he didn't work hard enough in high school, or he was ill-informed about the grants available (at least now) to those who wish to attend college.

He might ask himself whether, as manager, (and therefore, as "richer" than those he supervised) he worked harder as manager than those he supervised.

February 05, 2014 at 5:01 am

And what does it mean to "work harder"? John said he had to work "twice as hard" at his low paying job. Does he mean twice the hours? Or does he mean working "harder" for the same number of hours. Does he mean by "hard" physical labor or mental worry?
We need more information.

When Buffet talks about "the rich" he talks about his level of "rich". What about the more common levels of "rich"? No one here has even defined the term.

Is "rich" merely more than you make? Or is it a number, above which, one falls into that category?

February 05, 2014 at 4:58 am

Judy Martel asks: Do the rich really work harder? Then she proceeds to quote survey results without advising whether those surveyed were "the rich" or those imagining how hard "the rich" work. So she did not answer her own question.

Cindy K.
February 03, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Some of the Rich DO work harder ....but the problem is the Pay scale. Is it really right that Sports figures, Movie Stars and Political figures make THAT KIND OF $ ???? ABSOLUTELY NOT !!!!! I am angry as heck...that these people make ridiculous Incomes...HAVE YOU SEEN MICHAEL JORDON'S house on the websites???? No one needs to be living so flagrantly. And another thing..once a Political figures job is done....SO SHOULD HIS INCOME BE DONE !!!!!! :-(

People should earn by what kind of Education they have and hours put onto their work. People who do NOT HAVE AMBITION...most DEFINITELY do not deserve to make the same kind of money!! BUT ..we should force these people into some time of educational system to help them make a descent life for themselves.

Freddy k
February 03, 2014 at 12:22 pm

You know I have always wanted to be a professional basketball player. However, I am only 5'6" tall. This is not fair. I think the government should require all basketball players to be 5"8" tall or smaller. This will include a lot more people to play that have been discriminated against for the last 50 years. It is extremely unfair that the tall keep getting taller. Why do we have a government that does nothing to help us. I took a poll, and 99% of people agreed with me that this is a terrible injustice that must be rectified. This height GAP must not go on. All of those who agree with my minimum height debate stand united.

January 31, 2014 at 1:06 pm

I got down sized from a good paying job(buy out, company sold), the only job I could find paid $7.25 per hour, I had to work twice as hard at the low paying job. ($15.76 good job, $7.25 bust my a$$ job).

January 30, 2014 at 8:11 pm

John even Warren Buffet said the rich don't pay their share. The rich keep getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. That's the facts.