Charted: The Working Hours of Americans at Different Income Levels
The Actual Working Hours of Different Income Levels
Do you really need to work 100-hour weeks for success?
In 2021, America’s top 10% of income earners made at least $129,181 a year—more than double the average individual income across the country.
When looking at differences between income groups, there are many preconceived notions about the work involved. But what are the actual average working hours for different income groups?
This graphic by Ruben Berge Mathisen uses the latest U.S. Census data to show the average working hours of Americans at different income levels.
Comparing Average Work Weeks
The data used for this graphic comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s May 2022 Current Population Survey, which surveys more than 8,000 Americans from various socioeconomic backgrounds.
Importantly, the data reflects the average work hours that respondents in each income percentile “actually” work each week, and not what’s on their contract. This also includes overtime, other jobs, or side gigs.
According to the survey data, America’s top 10% income percentile works 4.4 hours more each week than those in the bottom 10%. And in surveys across other countries, though with hundreds of respondents instead of thousands, the discrepancy was similar:
Do the rich really work longer hours than the poor?
The graph below plots data from 27 countries.
On average, the Top 10% actually works ~1 hour less per week than the Bottom 10%, among full-time workers. Working hours are usually pretty similar though.#dataviz pic.twitter.com/Ue23VweJ9C
— Ruben Mathisen (@rubenbmathisen) August 7, 2022
While both income and wealth gaps are generally widening globally, it’s interesting to see that higher earners aren’t necessarily working more hours to achieve their increasingly larger salaries.
In fact, the top 10% in the 27 countries shown in the graphic are actually working around 1 hour less each week than the bottom 10%, at least among full-time workers.
Zooming Out: Average Working Hours per Country
Similarities arise when comparing average working hours across different countries. For starters, people living in poorer countries typically work longer hours.
According to Our World in Data, the average worker in Cambodia works about 9.4 hours a day, while in Switzerland, people work an average of 6 hours a day.
While many factors contribute to this discrepancy in working hours, one large factor cited is tech innovation, or things like physical machines, processes, and systems that make work more efficient and productive. This allows wealthier countries (and industries) to increase their output without putting in as many hours.
For example, from 1948 to 2011, farm production per hour in the U.S. became 16x more productive, thanks to innovations like improved machinery, better fertilizers, and more efficient land management systems.
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
Comparing Population Pyramids Around the World
Population pyramids can show a country’s demographic advantages and challenges at a glance. See how different parts of the world stack up.
Understanding and Comparing Population Pyramids
Demographic data can reveal all kinds of insights about a population, from the country’s fertility and mortality rates to how certain events and policies have shaped the makeup of a population.
Population pyramids are one of the best ways to visualize population data, and comparing the pyramids of various countries and regions side-by-side can reveal unexpected insights and differences between groups.
This graphic uses population data from the United Nations to compare the demographics of some select nations and regions of the world, showcasing how much age distributions can vary.
Three Types of Population Pyramids
Although population pyramids can come in all shapes and sizes, most generally fall into three distinct categories:
- Expansive Pyramids: Recognized by their traditional “pyramid-like” shape with a broad base and narrow top, expansive pyramids reflect a population with a high birth rate along with a high mortality rate which is most common in developing countries.
- Constrictive Pyramids: With a narrow base and thicker middle and top sections of the pyramid, constrictive pyramids often occur in developed economies whose populations have low birth rates and long life expectancies.
- Stationary Pyramids: These pyramids showcase an evenly distributed population across age groups, often found in newly-developed countries which have stable birth and mortality rates.
Each population pyramid is essentially a visual snapshot of a nation’s current demographic breakdown, shaped by fluctuating birth and mortality rates as well as changes to immigration and social policies.
Understanding the inherent risks associated with different pyramid types can help give insight into the challenges these populations face.
The Risks of Different Population Pyramid Types
Each type of population pyramid structure has unique challenges and advantages often characterized by the country or region’s current stage of economic development.
Populations with expansive pyramids, such as the one representing the continent of Africa, have the advantage of a larger youth and working-aged population, however this advantage can be rendered null if job growth, education, and health care aren’t prioritized.
Countries with constrictive pyramids like Japan face the challenge of supporting their outsized aging population with a diminishing working-aged population. While immigration and increasing birth rates can help in both the short and long term, due to the working population being outnumbered, countries with constrictive pyramids must find ways to increase their productivity to avoid potential declines in economic growth.
China and India’s Demographics Compared
After the world’s population reached eight billion people last year, 2023 brought a new population milestone as India overtook China as the world’s most populous country.
When you compare the two nations’ population pyramids, you can see how India’s population has a strong base of young and working-aged people compared to China’s more constrictive population pyramid that also features a higher median age.
This demographic difference is largely shaped by China’s one-child policy which since 2021 was loosened to be a three-child policy. As a result, China’s total fertility rate is around 1.2 today, in contrast to India’s total fertility rate of 2.0.
While India is set to ride the productivity boom of its large working-age population, the country will have to ensure it can keep its population pyramid stable as the majority of the population ages and total fertility rates continue to decline.
|Interested in learning more about the various factors that affect demographics?
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